A bill to repeal a statewide septic tank inspection program is gaining ground in the state Legislature, having unanimously passed the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee yesterday.

Sponsored by state Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, Senate Bill 820 aims to repeal an inspection program established in 2010 and replace it with “an optional, standard septic system inspection program for all counties and municipalities to be administered by county health departments.”

“Florida is a state with diverse landscapes and communities,” Dean said in a press release. “Septic system evaluations and assessment programs should be determined locally so we are not recklessly wasting taxpayer dollars.”

The repeal of last year’s S.B. 550 has been a major tea party priority since the bill was passed. Last year, the House passed a bill sponsored by state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, that would have repealed the septic tank requirement, but the Senate version of the bill was shot down.

The law put in place after the passage of the 2010 bill requires homeowners to pump out their system every five years or face a $500-per-day fine — a mandate some homeowners find to be intrusive. Environmentalists, however, have argued that the mandate would gradually reduce water pollution from leaking septic tanks.

If passed as written, S.B. 820 would also do the following:

  • Require counties or municipalities containing a first-magnitude springs to adopt the program or opt out of the program before Jan. 1, 2013.
  • Allow other counties or municipalities that do not contain a first-magnitude spring to opt in to the program.
  • Allow a county or municipality to adopt the program in all or part of its geographic jurisdiction.
  • Grandfather existing county or municipality programs established prior to July 1, 2011, provided the existing program does not require an evaluation at the point of sale in a real estate transaction.
  • Allow municipalities not bound by an inter-local agreement or a county charter provision to the contrary to opt out of the program.
  • Allow system owners to choose the least costly remedial measure to resolve a system failure.
  • Exempt septic systems serving residential units with a one-bedroom to one-acre or greater ratio.

The bill’s next stop is the Senate Health Regulation Committee, followed by the Budget Committee.

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