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Florida passes bill to combat blue-green algae blooms

Algae bloom in the St. Johns River in 2009.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature is attempting to rein in the blue-green algae blooms that have hurt tourism and wildlife, sending Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis a bill that seeks to reduce nutrients reaching the state's waterways and groundwater.

The bill is a priority for DeSantis and includes recommendations from a task force formed to address the algae problem that has plagued the state in recent years.

The 77-page bill addresses septic tanks, municipal wastewater treatment, stormwater runoff, farm fertilizers and more.

“This bill actually advances water quality in Florida in a real substantive way. I mean, I think I’m going to cry, I’m so excited," said Democratic Rep. Margaret Good before the House unanimously approved the bill. “Clean water and water quality are so important to Florida.”

Algae blooms in Florida rivers and other waterways have killed fish, irritated eyes and have shut down fishing, swimming, boating and other activities in a state where water resources are a huge tourist draw.

The bill seeks to better regulate onsite sewage treatment, upgrade leaky utility water lines and better manage farm fertilizers that wash into state waterways. It also directs the Department of Environmental Protection to work with the University of Florida to recommend better management rules to prevent fertilizers from flowing from golf courses.

“This is going to be a piece of legislation that we’re going to talk about decades from now as the starting point where we shifted gears and proved to people that we, as a state, are prepared to take on these big environmental issues,” said Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia. “Make no mistake about it, this is an historic piece of legislation.”

The Senate unanimously passed the bill last week.

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This story has been corrected to show the Senate passed the bill last week, not two weeks ago.