Test and Know It’s Safe to Go, Florida!
Surfrider Foundation strongly encourages the adoption by the 2022 Legislature of SB 604 The Safe Waterways Act/ HB 393 Public Bathing Spaces to protect recreationists in Florida's public swimming spaces and posts visible signage when bacterial counts are elevated. This legislation will be an additional boost to fully fund the Healthy Beaches Program to full testing status with statewide, weekly testing year round.
SB 604 Safe Waterways Act has been a longtime coming. Unfortunately in the 2022 session, it failed to make it past it's second committee stop. But we won't stop! We'll be pushing for a version of this bill in the next session.
The Surfrider Foundation pushes every year to the DOH, Governor, and Legislators to adopt more strict and regular testing and signage to protect the health of recreationists throughout the state. This is the first time a bill was heard ono 2/7/22 in committee and was passed unanimously. There was an new amendment added here that will take some discussion, but the premise of getting regular testing done and signage placed where there is an elevated reading is a huge victory in the process.
The current deficiencies to the program are leaving half the state with no testing for 4 months of the year and the rest of the state tested only bi-weekly. There is currently no uniformity in signage or requirements of the regularity in which testing is done. Counties and community science programs such as Surfrider's Blue Water Task Force have been critical in identifying problem areas and working with the DEP and DOH to alert the public.
This issue not only impacts our residents in Florida, but also our countless tourists across the world who unknowingly enter our waterways where sewage and high bacterial counts may be present. This can cause severe illness to humans and wildlife and additionally fuel the ever increasing dangerous algal blooms the state has had to contend with every year. Removal of nutrients and locating where spill sites are happening is critical for human health, fishing and recreation industry, tourism, property values, and wildlife.
We have traveled to the Capitol and presented to Committees in person the critical nature of such a bill and the restoration of the full funding of the Healthy Beaches Program.