News Feature | April 13, 2018

Wastewater-In-Aquifers Bill Gets Vetoed

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed a controversial wastewater bill this month under pressure from environmentalists.

Environmentalists opposed language in the bill promoting the use of treated wastewater to recharge the state’s aquifer system, according to The Miami Herald.

HB 1149, a wide-ranging environmental bill, would have made changes to require the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to work with regional water management districts to support the reuse of treated wastewater in the aquifer. The state already allows highly treated wastewater to be injected underground,” the report said.

Scott stated that he has concerns about the wastewater proposal in the bill despite supporting other sections of the legislation.

“I do not believe that approving HB 1149 is worth risking Floridians’ confidence in our existing water quality regulatory system,” he wrote. “I am not convinced that this legislation will not muddle Florida’s protection of our aquifers.”

"Protecting Florida's environment has been a top priority during my time as governor," Scott added, per the Associated Press. "Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way."

Clean Water Network of Florida Director Linda Young was among those who opposed the proposal. She referred to the legislation as “the dirty water bill of 2018,” according to The Tampa Bay Times.

“Florida is not responsible enough for its resources — it’s too deeply controlled by polluters to go down this road,” she added.

Opponents say reclaimed water is not cleaned enough to make it ready to be introduced into aquifers. They state that antibiotics, antidepressants and other drugs would not be screened out of the water first. Young joked that the initiative could be advertised like this: "Hey guys, did you leave home without your Viagra? Not a problem! We provide plenty in your drinking water in Florida!"

Proponents of the legislation say it would help there is adequate potable water for Florida residents, and that it is a perfectly safe approach. Some municipalities will be disappointed by the veto.

“The city of Clearwater is in the process of permitting a treatment facility to recycle wastewater and return it into the aquifer, and in the city of Tampa, officials are conducting a feasibility study for a recharge and recovery project to pump the wastewater 900 feet underground into the aquifer and recover it at a shallower depth to naturally treat it, before further filtering it at a water treatment facility or funneling it into a reservoir,” the report said.