Florida DEP puts new focus on transparency
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is embracing a new era of transparency after eight years under a former Governor that wouldn’t acknowledge a changing climate.
The first step is a data-filled website on water quality.
Protecting Florida Together is more than a website according to Noah Valenstein, the Secretary of Department of Environmental Protection.
He called it a statewide conservation about the environment.
“Are we doing our jobs, first of all? Right? Is the agency making sure water quality is protected and getting better?” said Valentein.
Right now, the website lists nutrient levels in three troubled bodies of water in south Florida.
It will be built out statewide.
“If we are not having a conversation about water quality statewide, then we’re in trouble, right, and I think that’s where we were in years past,” said Valenstein.
In addition to a new web site, there is a new attitude.
“You’ll be able In the near future, to sign up and actually get an email alert saying a new sample came through and you’ve got blue-green algae within your area,” said Valenstein.
Funding is at a record high.
And the State’s first Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Fraiser said the kind of data being posted has never been in on place before.
“You’re looking at the same data we’re using to see whether or not we’re doing a good job or not, and I think we are. It’s a pretty exciting time for us to do this, and it hasn’t really been attempted before,” said Fraiser.
And a watchdog group of former employees that monitor the agency said they are seeing some positive changes and hope more are on the way.
Soon to be introduced legislation will move septic tank regulation from the Department of Health to DEP.
The Governor’s plan would require permitting for new septic tanks and consider the quality of nearby water before the permit would be granted.