WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Lawmakers are reacting to a Contact 5 Investigation that uncovered a possible growing threat to your drinking water: Gasoline.
State budget cuts could mean it may take longer for inspectors to spot contamination and to clean it up. Some lawmakers are now calling for action.
Every time you fill up at the pump you’re getting charged four cents a gallon in taxes that go into a special trust fund. That fund is for the state to help spot and cleanup gasoline leaks. But not all of the money’s going to protect your drinking water.
Inspectors check underground fuel storage tanks to spot leaks. It’s their job to help prevent chemicals from getting into the groundwater so it doesn’t threaten your drinking water.
While you pay for the protection at the pump, the state has cut 45 inspectors and another 50 cleanup workers over the past five years. And instead of annual inspections, most tanks are now getting inspected once every two years.
“It’s a very dangerous situation and the state continues to turn its back,” said State Representative Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach.
It’s a concern for Representative Pafford who said lawmakers should consider the long term health effects before making any new cuts in 2013.
"Like we fund fire and police we need to consider these regulatory agencies and the important role they play in Florida in terms of keeping us not only safe, but making sure our tax dollars actually go to purposes that are worth it,” said Pafford.
Lawmakers in Tallahassee raided the fund to help balance the state’s dwindling budget. A total of 8 million dollars was taken from the fund just this past year and put into the general fund.
“Catching problems before they become more expensive is really the way to go,” said Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee. She sits on the committee that helps decide how environmental funds are spent.
“I think the most essential items that the State ought to be protecting is groundwater because no one else can do that,” said Representative Rehwinkel Vasilinda.
As it stands now, Florida has more fuel cleanup sites than any other state in the country.
“This is a big issue and it's something nobody will pay attention to unless people demand that their representatives get involved,” said Pafford.
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