Now that the Florida Legislature has approved and Gov. Rick Scott has signed legislation updating how the public is informed about pollution incidents, the implementation is coming.
What incidents are reported will depend on what contaminant is involved and in some cases whether a water body is threatened.
Pollution incidents and other events, such as road blockages, train wrecks and school lockdowns, are reported to the State Watch Office.
If you want to subscribe to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s notification system, go to this link. This link will also take you to notices that are published under the new law.
As you may recall, this law was prompted by massive sewer spills in St. Petersburg that local officials initially tried to cover up and by a sinkhole in one of the gypsum stacks at Mosaic’s New Wales plant south of Mulberry.
Although Mosaic officials promptly reported what its consultant to opaquely described as “an anomaly likely connected to the Floridan aquifer system,” to state and local officials, the public was left in the dark..
When word finally surfaced to the public that there was a sinkhole, it caused a firestorm of criticism from residents in the area who were concerned about private drinking water well contamination. As it turned out, Mosaic kept the contamination on its own property by cranking up its pumps and recirculating the contaminated water that flowed into the sinkhole.
Mosaic had taken the same approach following a much larger sinkhole several years earlier.
No drinking water wells were contaminated as a result of either incident.
However the lack of transparency in the reporting process created political pressure to do a better job of letting the public know when these kinds of incidents occur.
The St. Pete sewer spills have been a recurring issue in the current mayor’s race, too.