Why I Lost Faith in the BMAP Process

The problem, as stated by Florida Department of Environmental Protection specialists, is springs’ water impairment (pollution) due to excessive nitrogen. The plan of attack was a local committee to study the problem from a local perspective, identify problem sources, and recommend project solutions. Those solution projects would then become an integrated plan and funded by FDEP. It would become called the Basin Management Action Plan or BMAP. I liked how the theory sounded; local people, local problem identification, local solutions.

But, somewhere in the process, BMAP became a shell for a government take over of private property septic systems. The more I investigated the problem and proposed solution, the more murky this plan became. Here are my reasons for why I feel my faith was misplaced.

1. BMAP is mostly a government operation. It was authorized by the Florida Legislature and has the force of law. BMAP committees are made up mostly of government officials with a sprinkling of a few private “stakeholders” who special interest representatives. That’s okay but, homeowners themselves were not included. (Allowed to sit and listen but had no input – my questions submitted on behalf of homeowners two years ago still remain unanswered)

Thus, BMAP has been placed into the hands of mostly unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. And, as most people have observed, government always protects itself and does anything it can to control and take in more revenue. This is the record of BMAP.

2. The science used to justify BMAP projects is questionable or downright faulty. Extremely limited, real-life data, estimations, and further assumptions are fed into computer models which can easily provide a pre-determined result. This is reflected in the standard amount of nitrogen allowed to be found in water, 0.286 mg/L. Compare that to drinking water which is allowed to have up to 10 mg/L. This standard is potentially unachievable and beyond cost effectiveness. But, it does satisfy a United Nations invention called the “Precautionary Principle.”

“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.” – Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle, Jan. 1998

“The key element of the principle is that it incites us to take anticipatory action in the absence of scientific certainty.”

Senator David Simmons actually attempted to include the definition of this principle in his legislation on this topic. Regretfully, while the definition was rejected for inclusion, the principle remained the guiding factor.

3. Tragically, the Legislature and government agencies have ignored and/or suppressed free market solutions discovered as early as 2005. A product called “Bold and Gold” was developed at the University of Central Florida. It discovered a granular medium made up of old ground-up tires and gravel, when placed under a passive septic system’s drainfield, would absorb up to 97 percent of nitrogen and other excessive nutrients. The FDOH chose not to even test this inexpensive and environmentally beneficial product.

About that same time, it was discovered that underlining a drainfield with simple wood chips accomplishes the same goal. It is only in this year that the wood chip solution has been considered a commercially available solution. However, the FDOH has so cluttered this simple solution with needless rules that the cost of for implementation has increased dramatically.

Another example of FDOH’s failure to provide an affordable, passive solution is the denial of a product developed by Presby, Inc. It offers a commercially available septic system that reduces excessive nutrients but, it has inexplicably been prevented for being tested marketed in Florida.

Incidentally, government has no idea if and where septic systems are failing. Legislation authorizing local governments to test for failing septic systems has never been used. And products developed in the private sector which could monitor failing septic systems has also been resisted.

4. While simple, inexpensive, passive solutions have been withheld from Floridians which could have helped solve the nutrient issue years ago, FDOH has worked and spend taxpayer dollars to develop its own solutions. Its solutions are still untested in real-life situations, overly expensive, complicated, and dependent on electricity. It also authorizes other such products by private companies which are comparably expensive and complicated. Products dependent upon electronics of any kind pose severe risks to homeowners in weather events such as storms and hurricanes.

Now, a company of former FDEP employees and others is offering a new product. It skirts around normal testing protocols by calling itself a sewer system rather than a septic system. But, this product, in fact, is like the others in that it is complicated, dependent on electricity, and returns treated waste water back to the ground.

5. Of all the programs and product BMAP has to offer, no true results will be known for 15 – 20 years. Converting 25,000 passive septic systems in the Wekiva Priority Focus Area will cost taxpayers at least $500,000. By the time results can be measured as to the effectiveness of these projects (there are 13 BMAPs in Florida) those elected officials who voted for this, those bureaucrats developing and implementing these programs, and the special interests making money off these programs and products, will be long gone and immune from accountability. But, by then, many of us will be retired or dead, and unable to raise the issue of corruption and mismanagement.

In the big picture, big government has defined a big problem. Only big government with its regulations and rules, can fix the big problem. The solution will take lots of money-taxpayer money-our money. Evaluating the success or failure of such a huge expense will take decades. It’s failsafe from accountability and insures for some profitability.

America was made great by big innovators creating affordable and effective products and a small government stayed out of the way. America is being destroyed by big government mandating its own expensive solutions while suppressing and preventing innovators from doing what they do best.

Maybe it’s time to apply the precautionary principle to growing government. Now I could have faith in that.

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Dan Peterson

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