Got Clean Water in your Town?

Don’t let DEP take your rights away!

If you do, you are pretty darn lucky because clean water is becoming a rare commodity in the State of Florida. It’s a good day for a lot of rivers and bays if there is no toxic algae blooming and people can get on or near the water without their eyes burning and having coughing fits. How did things get so bad?

About 14 years ago, the Florida DEP decided to become a “kinder, gentler” agency when it comes to enforcing the law. They got rid of most of their enforcement attorneys, stop fining serious polluters (yeah, they still pick on mom & pop polluters from time to time, but serious polluters get full DEP protection) and starting treating “regulated interests” as their “clients”. Things have steadily gone downhill and today we see our waters full of toxic algae, our submerged grasses dying, fisheries crashing and shell-fish beds disappearing. Surely the state is just as horrified as we are that hundreds of dolphins, sea-turtles and manatees have died in these polluted waters in the last two years? Apparently not!

At the same time that Florida’s waters are at their most polluted level ever, the Florida DEP is working fast and furiously to further weaken our water quality standards. (Our water quality standards include: Designated Uses, Criteria and Anti-degradation Policy) This is not an early April Fools joke! This is true – sadly. They are determined to find a way to avoid the Clean Water Act. Here’s what they are up to right at this moment:

1.   Impaired Waters Rule (IWR) – Florida has developed a methodology (their words) for determining when a water body is too polluted and must go on a pollution diet – rather than following the clearly written directions in the Clean Water Act (which says to check the water to see if it is violating your approved water quality criteria). Clean Water Network of Florida sued EPA for allowing Florida to use this “methodology called the IWR instead of its approved water quality criteria – and we WON! So, now DEP has adopted the IWR as a part of its water quality standards – in spite of the fact that they had NO authority to do this under state or federal law. Since December they have been unofficially haggling with EPA about getting the IWR approved and amazingly EPA is holding back approval. EPA knows that Clean Water Network of Florida will sue them again if they do and hopefully the federal courts will stop Florida once again. Essentially, Florida DEP has tried to change the definition of pollution and has declared hundreds of grossly polluted waters in our state as now being clean under the IWR.

2.   SSAC Rule – This stands for “Site Specific Alternative Criteria” and is found in Chapter 62-302.800 Florida Administrative Code. About a year ago, DEP was desperately looking for a way to avoid a pollution limit on nutrients that the EPA had set for the lower St. Johns River. EPA’s pollution limit will require all 33 sewage treatment plants that are currently dumping sewage (secondary treatment) in the river to upgrade their treatment level to “Advanced treatment”. Also, the Georgia-Pacific paper mill would have to significantly reduce their nutrient loading to the river. DEP has promised these polluters in many public meetings that they will protect them from having to clean up their discharges to this level. Why??? That’s a good question. Why would we not want that many sewage plants to at least have advanced treatment if they are going to dump their sewage in the St. Johns River??? You’ll have to ask DEP.

Anyway, to avoid EPA’s pollution limit, DEP created a new loophole in Chapter 62-302.800 that allows DEP to use a weaker criteria for determining pollution levels and that is exactly what they did. They are now saying that the fish don’t need as much dissolved oxygen as Florida law says they do (a 24-hour average of 5.0 milligrams per liter). This would allow the sewage plants and Georgia Pacific to avoid the higher treatment levels for their discharges. DEP can now use this new loophole ANYWHERE IN THE STATE. Clean Water Network of Florida is suing EPA for allowing DEP to do this and the case is in federal court.

3.   Designated Uses – Right now all of our waters fall into one of the following categories: Class I is for drinking water; Class II is for shell-fish harvesting; Class III is for swimming and aquatic life; Class IV is for agriculture; and Class V is for industrial uses (technically we have no Class V waters). DEP is looking for yet another way to avoid the pollution limits mandated by the Clean Water Act and is proposing several new “designated uses” for some of our waters. These would include such things as water you can get splashed with, but not be submerged into; water you can only go through in a boat; water that only a few pollution-tolerant fish could survive in; and water that no fish can survive in. We call these new designated uses – “splashable/watchable”.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THIS???? If you want to ever have clean water in your community again, you need to get in touch with Governor Crist immediately and let him know that DEP is up to no good with these (and other) efforts to weaken our water quality standards. Ask him to intercede for the people of Florida and tell DEP to stop protecting polluters and start protecting our water. Contact information for Governor Crist can be found by clicking on the “Government Contacts” tab on our home page.

Real Estate Florida

Real estate market varies in different contexts. In Florida, for example, there are other real estate tactics that work and do not work. Now, we learn the two important aspects that realtors should know about the real estate industry in Florida.

First is the negative effect of short sales. There was a time when real estate selling in Florida is flourishing in the area of short sales. A short sale is also known as the falling short of the proceeds from a sale of a property. This happens when the lien acquired a property through an unpaid debt by the property owner. The owner could not pay the lien the full amount, but the lien still gives up the right to the property at a price lower than what should be paid. To close a short sale, a bank must approve the buyer’s request. The processing will take a longer time if there are more banks involved.

This high rate in short sales of properties dragged down the market prices of properties in Florida before. Some homes that do not close because no buyer is interested or buyers changed their minds affect the prices of other properties. It is a good thing that recently, short sales of real estates have gone down for almost half. As of January 2014, only 29 properties are open for short sales. Soon enough, these properties will be sold and the real estate spiral could start making its way up faster.

Another aspect of real estate in Florida that realtors should know is the translation of the income from real estate into a passive or monthly income. Realtors earn passive income in the properties they deal through the monthly rental which can go from short to long-term. A company called JWB Real Estate Capital has a feature on its website that provides beginner and pro realtors trainings for passive income in real estate. They provide training sessions to teach realtors to maximize their passive income earnings and study the investment industry in Florida.

Best Toilet

Florida Toilet Rebate Program and Water Problem

Best ToiletIt’s common among homes in Florida to have more than one toilet. In fact, many houses can have more of them than full-fledged bathrooms. The purpose of this is mainly for convenience. For example, a bathroom in the master’s bedroom means occupants don’t need to go down or out of the room to relieve themselves. In the same manner, it makes everyone more efficient. The rest have the unoccupied toilets for themselves. Check for best toilet here at

But along with this inconvenience is the increasing water problem. Granted, Florida’s water problems pale in comparison to those of the rest of the world. Until now, hundreds of households in Africa don’t have any access to sanitary water or own bathrooms. In a lot of places, water is a very valuable commodity that entails a high price. Thus, only those who can afford can use clean water.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that water is abused in Florida. Old toilets can consume as much as 5 gallons of water in each flush. Thus, if a person flushes at least 3 to 5 times a day, more than 20 gallons are used just to eliminate human waste–that is also over 20 gallons of water waste. That can be more than a thousand gallons every month if one takes into account all the households in a city alone. Indeed, toilets are some of the worst water wasters in the world.

The Rebate and Retrofit Program

Over the last few years, Florida water has been subject to many issues including contamination especially from fertilizers derived from irrigated or agricultural areas. Moreover, water pollution is constantly on the rise, and even if it’s not so severe in the state, pollution from other areas can affect and reach Florida.

There’s therefore the need to conserve and make water use more efficient. In line with this, different governments and communities in Florida decided to create a program that offers two things: a retrofit of the bathroom and a rebate.

In this program, homeowners are requested to change their old toilets, those that are installed before 1994, into newer models. These more innovative toilets have WaterSense label. WaterSense is an initiative by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Labeled toilets are expected to help save a household as much as 60% of water or roughly over 10,000 gallons each year. For Melbourne City residents, the toilet change saves them more than 17 gallons of water each day. Not only will this be practical, but it will also be economical as homeowners can als decrease their utility bills. The EPA website has a comprehensive list of toilet models with WaterSense label.

To encourage homeowners further, many cities in the state now offer a rebate of around $50 per household or per account. Those who want to take advantage of this, however, need to do so as soon as possible since it’s based on a first-come, first-served basis. Every city has allotted a budget for rebates. Once the amount has already been distributed and no more funds remain, it also no longer processes rebate application.

Other Requirements

Not everyone can take advantage of the rebate. Aside from the fact that it’s first come, first served, it also mentions that only the city residents with good accounts (that is, they have updated records with no unpaid bills) can apply. If the house has been remodeled or built after 1994, as backed by a remodeling or building permit, it is no longer allowed to apply since it’s assumed that the newer toilets have been installed as mandated by the EPA. It’s also essential that the homeowner is willing to change the toilet to any of the recommended models of the EPA.

These products come in sets: tank and toilet bowl. So far, there are three types of toilets to choose from, based on their flush methods. Pressure-assisted units utilize a strong water pressure to flush down the wastes. Other two options are gravity and vacuum assisted.

Almost all good-quality toilets cost more than $50, which means the rebate isn’t truly significant. But you’re advised not to take it at face value but to look at another much better perspective. In the long term, the toilet change can let you enjoy more savings in water and utility costs.

Take Note

The rebate already covers for the purchase and installation of the water-efficient toilets, and residents are responsible for the assembly. (It is also based on the toilet’s purchase date.) It’s thus important that you research a reliable professional plumber, one with a license or certification and preferably a general liability insurance. Before you decide to buy a new toilet, ask a plumber to see the design or configuration of your toilet and plumbing system so he can recommend the most ideal toilet to use.

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Clean Water for Florida

It was a long and hard battle for the people of South Florida, and that may be perfectly understandable. The defendants are no average–these are their own water district and, to a certain extent, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). But perhaps the saying “Patience is a virtue” is definitely true. A landmark case received an equally landmark verdict, and the people of South Florida eventually won.

What’s the case about? It was a challenge in line with the Clean Water Act. Back in 2002, concerned citizens and organizations in South Florida decided to sue the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), Army Corps of Engineers, and the EPA. A long time ago, a dike was built around Lake Okeechobee, which is the main source of water supply for the community.

At first glance, it looked like it was to prevent the water from overflowing especially when rains become more persistent, but it was mainly for agriculture. The ultimate treasure lies underneath it: muck soil that allows the farmers to grow winter crops and, later on, sugar cane. To reveal the precious soil, the water had to be pumped and dumped back into the lake as a reserve in case the farmers needed to boost its irrigation during dry spells.

But it’s here the main problem begins: The groundwater that was added back into the lake wasn’t fresh anymore. Rather, it’s filled with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that changed the water’s ecosystem significantly, killing the freshwater fish and decreasing the level of oxygen, causing the overproduction of algae. When these living things died, they settled at the bottom of the lake and then transform into muck soil. Then the process continued as long as the fertilize-infused water went up to the lake and the muck soil layer disturbed.

Further, the gates that released the water from the lake were actually found at the bottom, bringing with it sediments and water that was enriched by the fertilizer, threatening the life of the marine species in rivers and estuaries and those of the community. Sadly, for many years, not one of the government agencies, especially the EPA, did something to enforce the policies of the act.

The case was more than a battle against David and Goliath or protection of the waters. It showcased society’s reality. Over the years we’ve been beseeched by information commercials, articles, journals, and studies that show how water pollution is affecting the world, and although we empathize and believe that something must be done, we tend to ignore the traditional practices that are contributing to it perhaps because at some point it has become an accepted one, a norm that’s already hard to eradicate.

Second, with our lack of understanding or knowledge on the many laws that protect the environment, it’s more difficult for us to defend it. We may have already felt that such practice in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the endorsement was wrong, and yet we didn’t have the power to do something about it because we really didn’t know.

Yet it also displayed how persistence and a sense of community moving toward one goal can make a huge difference not only for the environment but also for the lives of the future generation, who hopefully will continue to benefit from the waters provided by the lake. It was a victory for the present and future people of South Florida.