Environmentalists are urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto legislation that would allow developers to pump treated wastewater into the Floridan aquifer, the source of most of the state's drinking water.

  • HB 1149 passed both Florida House and Senate
  • Critics point out treated wastewater still contains dangers
  • Scott has until end of week to act on bill

The measure (HB 1149) reached the governor's desk Monday on the heels of swift passage by the state House and Senate. Supporters have billed it as an environmentally responsible way of spurring growth in parts of the state where traditional supplies of water are hard to come by.

But critics warn that allowing developers to replace aquifer water with treated wastewater could lead to environmental calamities. Despite being filtered, treated wastewater often still contains relatively high levels of nutrients that have been found to cause algae blooms. 

In addition, some remnants of human waste - including antibiotics and antidepressants - can't be fully removed, either.

"You're using the water, what we all depend on, and you're discussing tainting that with treated water," said Trimmel Gomes, an environmental policy consultant. "Once you open this can, you can't close it back. You're pumping that treated water into our underground aquifer, what we all depend on."

While Scott has generally been a pro-development chief executive - going so far as to dismantle the state's growth management agency shortly after taking office in 2011 - he has also shown a green streak, securing increased funding for environmental protection. In January, Scott announced an agreement in principle with Energy Secretary Ryan Zinke to remove Florida from the federal government's list of states under consideration for coastal oil drilling.

While the agreement has been largely dismissed as devoid of legal standing, it was seen as another step by Scott to appeal to conservation-minded voters as he prepares for a likely campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

"We can continue to make sure this is the state that people want to continue to travel to, they want to live in, because we have the most pristine environment in the world," Scott said at the time.

As a result, environmentalists are now hoping the governor will be inclined to block the wastewater legislation, which they've less-than-affectionately dubbed 'toilet to tap.'

"It would contradict all the work that has been done on springs protection," Gomes said.

Scott has until the end of next week to act on the bill.