In late summer 2016, Florida’s environmental tranquillity was shattered by two high-profile events: The failure of a gypsum stack liner at the Mosaic Fertilizer plant in New Wales led to a loss of wastewater, potentially contaminating groundwater; and discharges of domestic wastewater from City of St. Petersburg facilities to Tampa Bay (granted, these incidents paled in comparison to the potential catastrophe threatened a month later by Hurricane Matthew’s dance along the state’s eastern shore, but at least we had people to blame). In response, the state issued an emergency rule requiring enhanced public notice of pollution incidents. The rule required that a responsible party notify the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), local government and general public of a “pollution incident” within 24 hours of discovery.
The Florida legislature has now codified the Public Notice of Pollution requirements at Section 403.077, Florida Statutes, effective July 1, 2017. The statutory requirement addresses what were the two issues of contention raised in the emergency rule: What is “pollution” and what are the threshold amounts that trigger the notification requirements?