Gov. Scott establishes new rule to notify the public following pollution incidents

Posted at 12:12 PM, Sep 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 04:59:39-04

Following the Mosaic sinkhole and the sewage spill in Pinellas County, Governor Rick Scott has directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to issue an emergency rule that any incidents of pollution must be publicized within 24-hours.

In a press release, Gov. Scott said, “It does not make sense that the public is not immediately notified when pollution incidents occur and that is why I am directing DEP to immediately issue an emergency rule implementing strict requirements for public notification within 24 hours. Today, I am demanding any business, county or city government responsible for a pollution incident to immediately tell the public. That is common sense and our residents deserve that.

“While DEP was on-site to investigate the situation at Mosaic in less than 24 hours and followed current state laws to notify the public, our laws are outdated and must immediately be changed. When we find laws, rules and regulations that aren’t common sense, it is incumbent on us to immediately make changes like we are doing today. Not only am I directing an emergency rule to begin today, but I will fight for legislation next session to ensure the 24-hour public notification requirements are codified in law and the penalties to any violators are severely strengthened.

“Tomorrow, I will be at Mosaic’s New Wales facility to get a briefing from company officials and to view the sinkhole. Last week, I directed DEP to immediately investigate the sewage spill in Pinellas County and also to expedite their investigation into the sinkhole at Mosaic. I also directed DOH to immediately assist DEP to ensure our drinking water is safe. Both of these investigations are still ongoing, and should a violation be found, all responsible parties will be held accountable with appropriate penalties and sanctions once DEP concludes their work. We must do everything we can to ensure residents and visitors have access to clean and safe water, and are informed when incidents occur that could potentially have an impact on their health.”

The new 90-day emergency rule will apply to any pollution that affects Florida's air or water resources. DEP will work to get the public's input and to begin the formal rulemaking process to make the rule change permanent. 

The following outlines the new notification requirements directed by Governor Scott that will begin immediately:

  • Within 24 hours, DEP, local governments and the general public must be notified of pollution by any and all responsible parties;
  • Within 48 hours, DEP, local governments and the general public must be notified of any potential risks to public health, safety or welfare and to surrounding areas by any and all responsible parties; and
  • Within 24 hours of becoming aware pollution has affected areas off-site, adjacent and nearby property owners, in addition to DEP and local governments, must be notified of any potential health risks by any and all responsible parties.