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Agriculture, septic tanks targeted by Blue-Green Algae Task Force

Panel publishes 1st round of recommendations for Florida lawmakers

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force published its first round of recommendations for state lawmakers, aimed at cleaning up Florida’s waterways. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis created the task force through a January executive order after outbreaks of toxic algae and red tide across the state last year. 

"To improve Florida's water quality, making sure we're protecting these treasures that make us unique as a state," DeSantis said in January.

The task force’s initial recommendations follow multiple meetings around the state, including one Monday in Gainesville.

READ: Blue-Green Algae Task Force Consensus Document

Beth Alvi, with Audubon Florida, said she likes what she's seen so far.

"It was really interesting to see them ask the right questions and follow the dots to the questions that all of us who have been working in this arena have been asking for years," Alvi said.

The recommendations include better monitoring of nutrient reduction plans and increasing best management practice enrollment and enforcement for agriculture.

"Lake Okeechobee's problem, a big part of it, is agriculture," said Leon County Water Conservation Commissioner Bill Howell.

According to the document of recommendations, septic systems are a well-known and substantial source of nutrients to groundwater and surface waters across the state.

"That's going directly into the water table. That's the drinking water," Howell said.

The document notes there are more than 2.5 million septic systems in Florida.

The task force wants to bring back septic tank inspections, which haven’t been mandated since 2012.

"To keep your septic tank working well you need to have regular inspections," Alvi said.

The task force also wants lawmakers to move septic tank oversight to the Department of Environmental Protection. Septic systems are currently permitted and regulated by the Florida Department of Health.

More recommendations from the task force are sure to follow, as the panel is set to meet for a total of five years.