Tampa state Representative Dana Young defends her reclaimed water bill

Share on Nextdoor

One such group is Florida Audubon, whose executive director, Eric Draper, has sent a letter to Representative Young explaining that many of the provisions of this bill create a departure from the statewide water policy that water is a resource to be managed for the benefit of all people. Young does say that Draper said at the end of a public hearing earlier this week that he does not believe the bill would privatize Florida waters (CL was unsuccessful in attempting to contact Draper).

Another prominent critic of Young's bill is former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham. Young says she believes that "unfortunately, he's been given some misinformation," and said she would like to meet with him to set him straight.

Mayor Buckhorn says the bill does nothing more than allow the city to control an asset that it manufactures. He says, "I need to know I have a product that I can guarantee my customers can get," adding that "it's important that we and not some other jurisdiction or agency control our reclaimed water."

The Sierra Club of Florida also opposes the bill. Dave Cullen from the group says that though it may be reclaimed water, it's still water, and it belongs to the public (i.e. the water management districts). He employs the slippery-slope argument if this exception is allowed. Cullen says he understands Mayor Buckhorn's concerns about the fears of making major infrastructure investments while not controlling the resource itself, but believes those concerns can be addressed without redefining what reclaimed water is.

In 2008, there was a push by state legislators for the city to sell its reclaimed water to a private, non-for-profit company called Water Partners, Inc., whose customers included TECO, Mosaic Fertilizer, and Hillsborough and Polk counties. That never occurred.

Representative Young's bill passed the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee by a 12-2 vote on Tuesday.

Tampa Republican Representative Dana Young says she's never received the kind of media attention she's experienced since introducing HB 639, a bill that would transfer control of reclaimed water to the utilities that produce it — a measure that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn strongly supports.

Young tells CL that the bill is important for Tampa residents because it gives the city "the certainty it needs to commit taxpayer dollars to build distribution systems for reclaimed water.”

Tampa has a reclaimed water system, but because of its prohibitive costs, its full potential has never been realized, as the service has been limited to residential customers in the South Tampa area only. For years, more than 50 million gallons of the product have been dumped into the Hillsborough River on a daily basis.

But a number of leading Florida environmentalists have expressed serious concerns about the bill, with the number one complaint being that the bill sets a dangerous precedent that would privatize public waters.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.