1. Opinion

Editorial: Telling public about pollution

Published May 5, 2017

Here's a modest step toward letting Floridians know when they could be at risk from a sewage spill or other major pollution threat. The Legislature sent to Gov. Rick Scott a bill requiring the owner or operator of the source of the pollution to notify the state within 24 hours and the state to tell the public within 24 hours of the notification. It's not perfect, but it's a start.

The legislation, SB 1018, was triggered by two high-profile incidents last year where the public was left in the dark about serious pollution threats. In St. Petersburg, the city failed to promptly report last summer that millions of gallons of sewage spilled into Tampa Bay and some streets. In Polk County, the public did not learn for nearly three weeks that a sinkhole had opened up at a Mosaic phosphate facility and dumped millions of gallons of tainted water into the aquifer. In either case, there is no excuse that the public was not promptly and widely notified.

To his credit, the governor ordered companies and local governments last fall to promptly notify the public of such incidents. Unfortunately, an administrative law judge ruled only the Legislature could require such notifications. And in Tallahassee, nothing is simple.

Instead of requiring private companies and local governments to directly notify the public, the legislation outlines a two-step process. The owner or operator of the source of the incident would be required to notify the Department of Environmental Protection within 24 hours. DEP then will have 24 hours to post the notice on a public website and send it to anyone who subscribes by email for notifications, including the media and the general public.

It's clunky, but it's better than not knowing at all.


  1. This photo shows multiple forms printed from the Internal Revenue Service web page that are used for 2018 U.S. federal tax returns.
  2. A boy named Jamal, 12, looks for an item in his new room at Joshua House in Lutz in 2016.
  3. Megan Davila, 25, a Child Protection Investigator in training, along with Jacque Salary, 46, a Child Protection Investigator and mentor for almost seven years, pictured with their case files in the family visitation room at the Child Protection Investigation Division of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Investigators are the front line of the foster care system, responsible for sometimes life-or-death decisions about whether to remove a child because of issues like domestic violence and drug use in the home.
  4. The Florida Senate is taking one step forward this year on criminal justice reform – requiring racial and ethnic impact statements for legislation we consider, writes State Sen. Jeff Brandes.
  5. Joey Cousin, a transgender student from Broward county and an opponent of the SB 404, known as the "parental consent" bill, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol. The bill requires girls under the age of 18 get a parent's consent before having an abortion was approved Wednesday in its final committee stop.
  6. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is advocating for a statewide policy of paid family leave for all Floridians.
  7. Pasco County community news
  8. Florida has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  9. Our democracy is under unprecedented attack from overseas, but the federal government has been unable or unwilling to protect our campaign-finance system.
  10. Cars sit locked in evening rush hour traffic on Dale Mabry near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Hillsborough County Commission will discuss Wednesday whether to prepare a transportation tax for the November ballot now that the fate of the current tax rests with the Florida Supreme Court. [ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times]