A Matter of Taste – Septic Tanks on Crops

Rep. Bryan Nelson of Apopka, FL

Admittedly, I am a little late on this story but this Miami New Times article on Top 5 defecation stories of the Year in Florida unfortunately brought it to my attention. In May of this year, while the Florida Legislature was still in session, a House Bill was proposed that would repeal the ban on spraying sewage out of septic tanks onto farmland. TampayBay.com’s Craig Pittman explains the detail in this May 6th article.

Essentially, sewage from septic tanks is a environmental hazard as it pollutes water and spreads disease.  So, if using human waste, lightly treated with lime, to grow the tomatoes you find in your local supermarket isn’t revolting enough, it’s also scientifically shown to be detrimental to the environment and your health. This is an excellent case example of why there is such a disconnect between people, politicians, and the government which has led to immense dissatisfaction with government for most citizens.

Now you can spin this issue anyway you want but the bottom line is that nobody I know, Republican or Democrat, likes the idea of eating food fertilized in human shit.  Yet, that won’t stop the politics and, excuse the pun, bullshit. Republican Rep. Bryan Nelson of Apopka doesn’t see it as spreading human shit on crops, instead he sees a ban on that practice as a “tax on people with septic tanks.” Nelson must be very persuasive legislator as the bill to ban “land application” (notice the vagueness of language) eventually passed and we citizens are subjected to shit filled Springs and produce grown from the excrement of another man (or woman).

The question that naturally arises is who do Bryan Nelson and his colleagues represent? Do they represent their constituency? Or, perhaps, do they represent the business interests of the 90 or so companies permitted to haul and spread Septic Tank sewage to farms? To answer these questions, let’s try a thought experiment: Ask every single Floridian how they feel on this subject. Hell, even narrow it to registered voters and ask them do they favor sewage, shown to be a hazard, spread on farmlands? In my theoretical thought experiment, I envision 95% + agreeing with this ban. If you have significantly different results, I would question what universe you inhabit or if your universe is solely inhabited by Septic Tank Dispensing Companies. I question anybody that thinks the general public would instinctively be against this ban. I’d be willing to hear arguments that you might be able to persuade them with the “tax on septic tank owners” argument but c’mon, really?

This highlights the issue of special interests which is pervasive in our government and politics. The government is no longer for the people and ran by the people, if it indeed ever was. At all levels politicians are unduly influenced by special interests and protect those interests over their constituent’s interests whenever possible. I have no doubt in my mind that if this bill would have been brought to public notice because of some tragic environmental disaster then it would not have passed into law because of public pressure. However, there are thousands of these legislative issues in every session and we have to be able to trust that our Representatives are looking after the majority of constituent’s interests first and foremost rather than a minority special interest with deep pockets and influence.

How to counter these bizarre “democratic” outcomes? Vote in all elections, whether national or munincipal, and inform yourself of the candidate’s views and records. Ask yourself, has this person voted to spread the land with human excrement? If so, why? Politicians respond to constituent pressure but it’s upon us to be aware of what’s happening at all levels and apply pressure when needed. Politics is not all national big topic issues, most of the laws that affect everyday life are decided in State Legislatures, County Commissions, and City Halls.

**EDIT: Septic Tank legislation will again be an issue in the upcoming session. Republican Marti Coley has filed legislation to REPEAL state inspections of septic tanks every 5 years. The intent of the inspections was to prevent sewage pollution of the Florida’s springs, a noble goal for those of us that don’t like to imbibe shit. See this article for more information.


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