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"Safe Waterways Act" filed in Florida

Posted at 11:42 AM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 11:49:24-04

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two Florida State Officials recently filed HB 393 and SB 604, known as the "Safe Waterways Act."

Filed by State Representative Yvonne Hayes Hinson (D-Gainesville) and State Senator Lori Berman (D-Delray Beach), this legislation "would require county health departments to post and maintain warning signs at public bathing places that have been verified impaired for fecal coliform, Escherichia coli, or enterococci bacteria by the Florida Department of Health until they meet state water quality standards."

According to a statement released on behalf of these officials, nearly one million acres of coastal estuaries and nine thousand miles of Florida’s streams and rivers are verified impaired for fecal indicator bacteria, but no statutory requirement exists to inform the public of this threat to their health.

“At any given time, thousands of Floridians are unknowingly swimming in fecal contaminated waters. The Legislature needs to crack down on wastewater pollution to address this crisis on the front end, but in the interim, Floridians and tourists should be given full transparency. The Safe Waterways Act will protect public health and pressure the state to prioritize water quality restoration in compliance with state regulations," Senator Lori Berman said.

Sources of contamination can include aging and malfunctioning sewage treatment plants, septic tanks, and animal waste.

“Floridians have the right to know if they are swimming in waters deemed unsafe due to substantial levels of fecal contamination. This important piece of legislation notifies the public of a severe health concern that has been ignored by state agencies for years. The required signage will be a constant reminder of the problem while serving as an incentive to accelerate the restoration of Florida’s impaired water bodies. Clean water is vital to the health of our communities, and access goes beyond just drinking water," Representative Yvonne Hayes Hinson said.