FLORIDA – September 27, 2016 – On September 26, 2016, in reaction to a sewage spill that released toxins into a public drinking-water supply, Florida Governor Rick Scott instituted an emergency rule requiring certain public notification steps that must be taken within 24 hours of a pollution discharge. Gov. Scott directed the Department of Environmental Protection to implement the emergency procedures which require notice to the Department of any “incident, or discovery, of pollution”. The notice to the Department requires certain detailed information including the identity of the reporting party, the installation name, address and location, the date, time, name and source of the incident or discovery, the type of pollution or contaminant, the receiving land, air or water, the risk to the public health, safety and welfare, and other areas that may be impacted by the discharge. Further, responsible parties are required to inform the public within 48 hours of the discharge, by notifying local broadcast television affiliates and newspapers of general circulation in the area of contamination. Such notice can be provided by email.
Gov. Scott is expected to propose amendments to current law that will include the emergency procedures now being announced and that will also include public notice requirements when pollution migrates off-site to adjacent properties or water bodies. The Governor’s proposals have already received support from various legislators due to recent pollution discharge impacts near the Tampa area, Pinellas County/St. Petersburg and Lakeland.