VERO BEACH — Passing legislation to prohibit the spreading of Class B biosolids remains a high priority for state Rep. Erin Grall, despite bills failing to pass this year in the Legislature.
Grall, R-Vero Beach, was the guest speaker Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the Taxpayers Association of Indian River County. State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, who was originally scheduled to speak, was unable to attend the luncheon due to a scheduling conflict.
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According to Grall, both she and Mayfield, worked hard to pass legislation to keep sewer sludge from being dumped on farmland and assist Indian River County in keeping the headwaters of the St. Johns River clean. The bills they introduced called for statewide regulations on the use of Class B biosolids along the lines of recommendations from a Department of Environmental Protection technical advisory committee.
“Sen. Mayfield passed the bill in the Senate and I got the bill through two committees in the House,” said Grall. “And then there was an attempt to put together an omnibus water bill. Whenever you see that coming, you can also see the writing on the wall as to what the end result may be.”
Educating people about the state of wastewater treatment in Florida proved difficult, Grall said, comparing it to the long fight Vero Beach experienced in the sale of its electric utility to Florida Power & Light Co.
“We are in the very beginning of this process,” said Grall. “Very much like the city of Vero Beach electric issue, it took a number of years to educate the folks in Tallahassee about how that issue was so important to our community. That fight was not won swiftly because it was complicated.
Despite the biosolid ban failing to pass statewide, Grall said, the moratorium in Indian River County remains in place until DEP is finished with its rulemaking process. There will be public hearings around the state beginning later this month about proposed rules that Grall believes would eliminate a number of sites where spreading biosolids is permitted.
“This is something we need to be on the forefront of,” said Grall. “We need to spend so much money in order to clean our water that we need to decide and focus on those thing we can do right now or in the near future in order to keep pollutants from going into our waterways.”
There are many special interests that weigh in on biosolids conversations; there are long-term contracts with waste haulers; cities and counties across the state have contracts for disposal of their waste products; and it’s much cheaper to have that waste hauled than it is to dispose of it in a wastewater facility, Grall said.
“We’re looking at any number of ways to incentivize those upgrades to wastewater facilities and make sure we’re processing those biosolids differently so they are not impacting our environment.”