THE ISSUE: Proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 has substantial funding for water quality projects.
OUR OPINION: New budget is good news for the environment, but the money needs to be spent as allocated.
The proposed 2021 fiscal year budget has $625 million in funding for Everglades cleanup and springs restoration, including septic-to-sewer programs.
That’s the good news. But the bad news is that the budget also reallocates $50 million in funding for springs restoration and septic to sewer programs that was allocated last year but not spent on environmental protection programs.
This is why we give the state government a tentative attaboy instead of a full-throated endorsement of plans. Good plans are no value unless they are carried out, and when money is allocated but not spent on environmental protection, that unspent money is doing no good for the environment.
Florida is blessed with more springs than any other state, but we have managed to damage them with excessive withdrawals of water and pollution from farmland and septic tanks.
And the health of the springs is an indicator of the overall health of our groundwater system, and 90% of Florida’s drinking water comes from groundwater.
This means that when there is excess nitrogen in the groundwater from septic tanks, the groundwater also contains other products that are leached from septic tanks, such as traces of personal care products, insecticides, sunscreen and various drugs.
Part of the funding in the budget will go to assist homeowners convert from aging and leaky septic systems to newer systems that release less nitrogen into the environment.
Excessive nitrogen contributes to the growth of undesirable plants in springs, in spring-fed water bodies such as King’s Bay and in the everglades where blue-green algae blooms last year led to massive pollution on both sides of the state.
Taking steps to clean this up is a positive for the state, and for Citrus County, where we still have multiple older septic tanks in watershed areas that contribute to excessive nitrogen loading in our springs and rivers.
Cleaner septic tanks and septic-to-sewer projects are expensive, but they are necessary for protecting the environment, and we are encouraged that money is being allocated to help homeowners with these beneficial projects.