REGULATION OF WELLS in conjuction with Irigation and sprinkler systems

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REGULATION OF WELLS

373.302 Legislative findings.

373.303 Definitions.

373.306 Scope.

373.308 Implementation of programs for regulating water wells.

373.309 Authority to adopt rules and procedures.

373.313 Prior permission and notification.

373.314 Citation of rule.

373.316 Existing installations.

373.319 Inspections.

373.323 Licensure of water well contractors; application, qualifications, and examinations; equipment identification.

373.324 License renewal.

373.325 Inactive status.

373.326 Exemptions.

373.329 Fees for licensure.

373.333 Disciplinary guidelines; adoption and enforcement; license suspension or revocation.

373.335 Clearinghouse.

373.336 Unlawful acts; penalties.

373.337 Rules.

373.342 Permits.

373.302 Legislative findings.–The Legislature recognizes that the practice of constructing, repairing, and abandoning water wells, if conducted by incompetent contractors, is potentially threatening to the health of the public and to the environment. The Legislature finds that a threat to the public and the environment exists if water resources become contaminated as a result of wells drilled by incompetent or dishonest contractors, and that to prevent contamination, it is necessary to regulate the construction, repair, and abandonment of wells, and the persons and businesses responsible therefor.

History.–s. 9, ch. 88-242.

373.303 Definitions.–As used in this part, the term:

(1) “Abandoned water well” means a well the use of which has been permanently discontinued. Any well shall be deemed abandoned which is in such a state of disrepair, as determined by a representative of the department, that continued use for the purpose of obtaining groundwater or disposing of water or liquid wastes is impracticable.

(2) “Construction of water wells” means all parts necessary to obtain groundwater by wells, including the location and excavation of the well, but excluding the installation of pumps and pumping equipment.

(3) “Department” means the Department of Environmental Protection.

(4) “Political subdivision” means a city, town, county, district, or other public body created by or pursuant to state law, or any combination thereof acting cooperatively or jointly.

(5) “Repair” means any action which involves the physical alteration or replacement of any part of a well, but does not include the alteration or replacement of any portion of a well which is above ground surface.

(6) “Water well contractor” means a person who is responsible for the construction, repair, or abandonment of a water well and who is licensed under this part to engage in the business of construction, repair, or abandonment of water wells.

(7) “Well” means any excavation that is drilled, cored, bored, washed, driven, dug, jetted, or otherwise constructed when the intended use of such excavation is for the location, acquisition, development, or artificial recharge of groundwater, but such term does not include any well for the purpose of obtaining or prospecting for oil, natural gas, minerals, or products of mining or quarrying; for inserting media to dispose of oil brines or to repressure oil-bearing or natural gas-bearing formation; for storing petroleum, natural gas, or other products; or for temporary dewatering of subsurface formations for mining, quarrying, or construction purposes.

(8) “Well seal” means an approved arrangement or device to prevent contaminants from entering the well at the upper terminal.

History.–s. 1, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 228, ch. 81-259; ss. 74, 75, ch. 83-310; ss. 10, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 267, ch. 94-356.

373.306 Scope.–No person shall construct, repair, abandon, or cause to be constructed, repaired, or abandoned, any water well contrary to the provisions of this part and applicable rules and regulations. This part shall not apply to equipment used temporarily for dewatering purposes or to the process used in dewatering.

History.–s. 2, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 15, ch. 73-190.

373.308 Implementation of programs for regulating water wells.–

(1) The department shall authorize the governing board of a water management district to implement a program for the issuance of permits for the location, construction, repair, and abandonment of water wells.

(2) The department shall authorize the governing board of a water management district to exercise any power authorized to be exercised by the department under ss. 373.309, 373.313, 373.316, 373.319, 373.323, 373.329, and 373.333 and shall encourage the district to fully exercise such powers as soon as practicable.

(3) Delegations pursuant to subsections (1) and (2) and ss. 373.323 and 373.333 may be rescinded only if the secretary determines that such delegations are not being carried out in accordance with the rules of the department.

(4) Notwithstanding the provision in this section for delegation of authority to a water management district, the department may prescribe minimum standards for the location, construction, repair, and abandonment of water wells throughout all or parts of the state, as may be determined by the department.

History.–s. 2, ch. 79-160; s. 76, ch. 83-310; s. 11, ch. 88-242.

373.309 Authority to adopt rules and procedures.–

(1) The department shall adopt, and may from time to time amend, rules governing the location, construction, repair, and abandonment of water wells and shall be responsible for the administration of this part. With respect thereto, the department shall:

(a) Enforce the provisions of this part and any rules adopted pursuant thereto.

(b) Delegate, by interagency agreement adopted pursuant to s. 373.046, to water management districts, the Department of Health, or any other political subdivision any of its authority under this part in the administration of the rules adopted hereunder under such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon, and may rescind such delegation upon a determination that the program is not being adequately administered.

(c) Establish procedures and forms for the submission, review, approval, and rejection of applications, notifications, and reports required under this part.

(d) Require at its discretion the making and filing of logs, and the saving of cuttings and cores, which shall be delivered to the department.

(e) Encourage prevention of potable water well contamination and promote cost-effective remediation of contaminated potable water supplies by use of the Water Quality Assurance Trust Fund as provided in s. 376.307(1)(e) and establish by rule:

1. Delineation of areas of groundwater contamination for implementation of well location and construction, testing, permitting, and clearance requirements as set forth in subparagraphs 2., 3., 4., 5., and 6. The department shall make available to water management districts, regional planning councils, the Department of Health, and county building and zoning departments, maps or other information on areas of contamination, including areas of ethylene dibromide contamination. Such maps or other information shall be made available to property owners, realtors, real estate associations, property appraisers, and other interested persons upon request and upon payment of appropriate costs.

2. Requirements for testing for suspected contamination in areas of known contamination, as a prerequisite for clearance of a water well for drinking purposes. The department is authorized to establish criteria for acceptance of water quality testing results from the Department of Health and laboratories certified by the Department of Health, and is authorized to establish requirements for sample collection quality assurance.

3. Requirements for mandatory connection to available potable water systems in areas of known contamination, wherein the department may prohibit the permitting and construction of new potable water wells.

4. Location and construction standards for public and all other potable water wells permitted in areas of contamination. Such standards shall be designed to minimize the effects of such contamination.

5. A procedure for permitting all potable water wells in areas of known contamination. Any new water well that is to be used for drinking water purposes and that does not meet construction standards pursuant to subparagraph 4. must be abandoned and plugged by the owner. Water management districts shall implement, through delegation from the department, the permitting and enforcement responsibilities of this subparagraph.

6. A procedure for clearing for use all potable water wells, except wells that serve a public water supply system, in areas of known contamination. If contaminants are found upon testing pursuant to subparagraph 2., a well may not be cleared for use without a filter or other means of preventing the users of the well from being exposed to deleterious amounts of contaminants. The Department of Health shall implement the responsibilities of this subparagraph.

7. Fees to be paid for well construction permits and clearance for use. The fees shall be based on the actual costs incurred by the water management districts, the Department of Health, or other political subdivisions in carrying out the responsibilities related to potable water well permitting and clearance for use. The fees shall provide revenue to cover all such costs and shall be set according to the following schedule:

a. The well construction permit fee may not exceed $500.

b. The clearance fee may not exceed $50.

8. Procedures for implementing well-location, construction, testing, permitting, and clearance requirements as set forth in subparagraphs 2.-6. within areas that research or monitoring data indicate are vulnerable to contamination with nitrate, or areas in which the department provides a subsidy for restoration or replacement of contaminated drinking water supplies through extending existing water lines or developing new water supply systems pursuant to s. 376.307(1)(e). The department shall consult with the Florida Ground Water Association in the process of developing rules pursuant to this subparagraph.

All fees and funds collected by each delegated entity pursuant to this part shall be deposited in the appropriate operating account of that entity.

(f) Issue such additional regulations and take such other actions as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this part.

(2) Notwithstanding ss. 373.219 and 373.326 or any other provision of this chapter or any rule adopted pursuant to this chapter, in any area identified by department rule pursuant to subparagraph (1)(e)1. as an area of known groundwater contamination, the department may by rule require a permit to construct or use any well which is or may be used as a source of drinking water. Rules adopted pursuant to paragraph (1)(e) shall specifically provide for uniformity in permitting of potable water wells in areas of groundwater contamination and shall be adopted by each delegated party.

History.–s. 3, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 229, ch. 81-259; s. 5, ch. 88-393; s. 9, ch. 91-305; s. 9, ch. 94-311; s. 39, ch. 96-321; s. 32, ch. 97-160; s. 67, ch. 99-8.

373.313 Prior permission and notification.–

(1) Taking into consideration other applicable state laws, in any geographical area where the department determines such permission to be reasonably necessary to protect the groundwater resources, prior permission shall be obtained from the department for each of the following:

(a) The construction of any water well;

(b) The repair of any water well; or

(c) The abandonment of any water well.

However, in any area where undue hardship might arise by reason of such requirement, prior permission will not be required.

(2) The department shall be notified of any of the following whenever prior permission is not required:

(a) The construction of any water well;

(b) The repair of any water well; or

(c) The abandonment of any water well.

History.–s. 4, part III, ch. 72-299.

373.314 Citation of rule.–In addition to any other provisions within this part or any rules promulgated hereunder, the permitting agency shall, when requesting information for a permit application pursuant to this part or such rules promulgated hereunder, cite a specific rule. If a request for information cannot be accompanied by a rule citation, failure to provide such information cannot be grounds to deny a permit.

History.–s. 5, ch. 79-161.

373.316 Existing installations.–No well in existence on the effective date of this part shall be required to conform to the provisions of s. 373.313 or any rules or regulations adopted pursuant thereto. However, any well now or hereafter abandoned or repaired as defined in this part shall be brought into compliance with the requirements of this part and any applicable rules or regulations with respect to abandonment of wells, and any well which is determined by the department to be a hazard to the groundwater resources must comply with the provisions of this part and applicable rules and regulations within a reasonable time after notification of such determination has been given.

History.–s. 5, part III, ch. 72-299.

373.319 Inspections.–

(1) The department is authorized to inspect any water well or abandoned water well. Duly authorized representatives of the department may at reasonable times enter upon and shall be given access to any premises for the purpose of such inspection.

(2) If upon the basis of such inspections the department finds applicable laws, rules, or regulations have not been complied with, it shall disapprove the well. If disapproved, no well shall thereafter be used until brought into compliance with the rules and regulations promulgated under this law.

History.–s. 6, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 14, ch. 78-95.

373.323 Licensure of water well contractors; application, qualifications, and examinations; equipment identification.–

(1) Every person who wishes to engage in business as a water well contractor shall obtain from the water management district a license to conduct such business.

(2) Each person desiring to be licensed as a water well contractor shall apply to take the licensure examination. Application shall be made to the water management district in which the applicant resides or in which his or her principal place of business is located. A resident of another state shall apply to the water management district in which most of the business of the applicant will take place. Application shall be made on forms provided by the water management district.

(3) An applicant who meets the following requirements shall be entitled to take the licensure examination to practice water well contracting:

(a) Is at least 18 years of age.

(b) Has at least 2 years of experience in constructing, repairing, or abandoning wells.

(c) Has completed the application form and remitted a nonrefundable application fee.

(4) The department shall prepare an examination which shall test an applicant’s knowledge of rules and regulations adopted under this part; ability to construct, repair, and abandon a well; and ability to supervise, direct, manage, and control the contracting activities of a water well contracting business. The department shall provide each water management district and representatives of the water well contracting industry with meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the examination.

(5) The water management district shall issue a water well contracting license to any applicant who receives a passing grade on the examination, has paid the initial application fee, takes and completes, to the satisfaction of the department, a minimum of 12 hours of approved coursework, and has complied with the requirements of this section. A passing grade on the examination shall be as established by the department by rule. A license issued by any water management district shall be valid in every water management district in the state.

(6) An employee of a political subdivision or of a governmental entity engaged in water well drilling shall be licensed pursuant to this part but shall be exempt from paying fees required pursuant to this part.

(7) When a water management district has probable cause to believe that any person not licensed as a water well contractor has violated any provision of this part or any statute that relates to the construction, repair, or abandonment of water wells, or any rule adopted pursuant thereto, the water management district may issue and deliver to such person a notice to cease and desist from such violation. In addition, the water management district may issue and deliver a notice to cease and desist to any person who aids and abets the unlicensed construction, repair, or abandonment of a water well by employing an unlicensed person. For the purpose of enforcing a cease and desist order, a water management district may file a proceeding in the name of the state seeking issuance of an injunction or a writ of mandamus against any person who violates any provision of such order.

(8) The department shall adopt rules which specifically provide for uniformity among all water management districts for the application process and qualifications for licensure, providing each water management district and representatives of the water well contracting industry with meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the rules as they are drafted. The rules shall be adopted by each water management district.

(9) Each piece of drilling equipment owned, leased, or operated by a water well contractor shall have the water well contractor’s license number prominently displayed thereon.

1(10) Water well contractors licensed under this section may install, repair, and modify pumps and tanks in accordance with the Florida Building Code, Plumbing; Section 612–Wells pumps and tanks used for private potable water systems. In addition, licensed water well contractors may install pumps, tanks, and water conditioning equipment for all water well systems.

History.–s. 7, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 114, ch. 77-104; s. 14, ch. 78-95; s. 77, ch. 83-310; s. 1, ch. 84-94; ss. 12, 23, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 602, ch. 95-148; s. 4, ch. 2001-186; s. 16, ch. 2001-270.

1Note.–As enacted by s. 4, ch. 2001-186. For a description of multiple acts in the same session affecting a statutory provision, see preface to the Florida Statutes, “Statutory Construction.” Subsection (10) was also added by s. 16, ch. 2001-270, and that version reads:

(10) Water well contractors licensed pursuant to this section shall be authorized to install, repair, and modify pumps and tanks in accordance with the Florida Building Code, chapter 29; Section 612–Well Pumps and Tanks Used for Private Potable Water Systems. In addition, licensed water well contractors shall be able to install pumps, tanks, and water conditioning equipment for all water well systems.

373.324 License renewal.–

(1) A water well contractor shall submit an application for renewal of a license to the water management district which issued the license.

(2) The water management district shall renew a license upon receipt of the renewal application, proof of completion of 12 classroom hours of continuing education for each renewal cycle, and renewal fee.

(3) The department shall prescribe by rule the method for renewal of license which shall include continuing education requirements of not less than 12 classroom hours for each renewal cycle.

(4) The department shall adopt rules establishing a procedure for the biennial renewal of licenses, which shall be adopted by each water management district.

(5) A license which is not renewed at the end of the biennium prescribed by the department shall automatically revert to inactive status. Such license may be reactivated only if the licensee meets the qualifications for reactivation in s. 373.325.

(6) At least 60 days prior to the automatic reversion of a license to inactive status, the water management district shall mail a notice of such reversion to the last known address of the licensee.

History.–ss. 13, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 17, ch. 2001-270.

373.325 Inactive status.–A license which has become inactive pursuant to s. 373.324 may be renewed or reactivated upon application to the water management district, as follows:

(1) A license which has been inactive for 1 year or less after the end of the biennium prescribed by the department may be renewed pursuant to s. 373.324 upon application to the water management district and upon payment of the renewal and penalty fees as provided in s. 373.329. Such renewed license shall expire 2 years after the date the license automatically reverted to inactive status.

(2) A license which has been inactive for more than 1 year may be reactivated upon application to the water management district for licensure pursuant to the requirements of s. 373.323.

History.–ss. 14, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429.

373.326 Exemptions.–

(1) When the water management district finds that compliance with all requirements of this part would result in undue hardship, an exemption from any one or more such requirements may be granted by the water management district to the extent necessary to ameliorate such undue hardship and to the extent such exemption can be granted without impairing the intent and purpose of this part.

(2) Nothing in this part shall prevent a person who has not obtained a license pursuant to s. 373.323 from constructing a well that is 2 inches or under in diameter, on the person’s own or leased property, intended for use only in a single-family house which is his or her residence, or intended for use only for farming purposes on the person’s farm, and when the waters to be produced are not intended for use by the public or any residence other than his or her own, provided that such person complies with all local and state rules and regulations relating to the construction of water wells.

History.–s. 8, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 1, ch. 84-94; ss. 15, 23, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 603, ch. 95-148.

373.329 Fees for licensure.–The department by rule shall establish fees to be paid for application for licensure, application for license renewal, and the penalty fee for renewal of a license which has been inactive for 1 year or less. The fees shall be based on the actual costs incurred by the water management districts in carrying out the responsibilities related to licensure of water well contractors as derived from estimates provided by the water management districts of the revenue required to implement this part, but shall not exceed the following amounts:

(1) Application for initial licensure, $150.

(2) Biennial license renewal, $50.

(3) Penalty for renewal of a license which has been inactive for 1 year or less, $75.

All fees and other moneys collected by a water management district pursuant to this part shall be deposited in the general operating fund of the water management district.

History.–s. 9, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 16, ch. 73-190; s. 1, ch. 84-94; ss. 16, 23, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429.

373.333 Disciplinary guidelines; adoption and enforcement; license suspension or revocation.–

(1) The department shall adopt by rule disciplinary guidelines applicable to each specific ground for disciplinary action which may be imposed by the water management districts, providing each water management district and representatives of the water well contracting industry with meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the disciplinary guideline rules as they are drafted. The disciplinary guidelines shall be adopted by each water management district. The guideline rules shall be consistently applied by the water management districts and shall:

(a) Specify a meaningful range of designated penalties based upon the severity and repetition of specific offenses.

(b) Distinguish minor violations from those which endanger public health, safety, and welfare or contaminate the water resources.

(c) Inform the public of likely penalties which may be imposed for proscribed conduct.

A specific finding of mitigating or aggravating circumstances shall allow a water management district to impose a penalty other than that provided in the guidelines. Disciplinary action may be taken by any water management district, regardless of where the contractor’s license was issued.

(2) Whenever the water management district has reasonable grounds for believing that there has been a violation of this part or any rule or regulation adopted pursuant hereto, it shall give written notice to the person alleged to be in violation. Such notice shall identify the provision of this part or regulation issued hereunder alleged to be violated and the facts alleged to constitute such violation.

(3) Such notice shall be served in the manner required by law for the service of process upon a person in a civil action or by registered United States mail to the last known address of the person. The water management district shall send copies of such notice only to persons who have specifically requested such notice or to entities with which the water management district has formally agreed to provide such notice. Notice alleging a violation of a rule setting minimum standards for the location, construction, repair, or abandonment of wells shall be accompanied by an order of the water management district requiring remedial action which, if taken within the time specified in such order, will effect compliance with the requirements of this part and regulations issued hereunder. Such order shall become final unless a request for hearing as provided in chapter 120 is made within 30 days from the date of service of such order. Upon compliance, notice shall be served by the water management district in a timely manner upon each person and entity who received notice of a violation, stating that compliance with the order has been achieved.

(4) The following acts constitute grounds for which disciplinary actions specified in subsection (5) may be taken by a water management district:

(a) Attempting to obtain, obtaining, or renewing a license under this part by bribery or fraudulent misrepresentation.

(b) Being convicted or found guilty, regardless of adjudication, of fraud or deceit; or of gross negligence, incompetency, or misconduct in the performance of work; or of a crime in any jurisdiction which directly relates to the practice of water well contracting or the ability to practice water well contracting. A plea of nolo contendere shall create a presumption of guilt to the underlying criminal charges, and the water management district shall allow the person being disciplined to present any evidence relevant to the underlying charges and the circumstances surrounding his or her plea.

(c) Allowing any other person to use the license.

(d) Violating or refusing to comply with any provision of this part or a rule adopted by the department or water management district, or any order of the water management district previously entered in a disciplinary hearing.

(e) Constructing, repairing, or abandoning a water well without first obtaining all applicable permits.

(f) Having had administrative or disciplinary action relating to water well construction, repair, or abandonment taken by any municipality or county or by any state agency, which action shall be reviewed by the water management district before the water management district takes any disciplinary action of its own.

(g) Practicing with a revoked, suspended, or inactive license.

(5) When the water management district finds a person guilty of any of the grounds set forth in subsection (4), it may enter an order imposing one or more of the following disciplinary actions:

(a) Denial of an application for licensure or for renewal of a license.

(b) Revocation or suspension of a license.

(c) Imposition of an administrative fine not to exceed $1,000 for each count or separate offense.

(d) Placement of the water well contractor on probation for a period of time subject to such conditions as the water management district may specify.

(e) Restriction of the licensee’s authorized scope of practice.

(6) When disciplinary action is taken against a contractor which results in suspension or revocation of the contractor’s license, a water management district shall notify each water management district of such action.

(7) The water management district shall reissue the license of a contractor whose license has been suspended or revoked upon determination by the water management district that the disciplined person has complied with all of the terms and conditions set forth in the final order.

History.–s. 10, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 78, ch. 83-310; s. 1, ch. 84-94; s. 3, ch. 84-338; s. 2, ch. 84-341; ss. 17, 23, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 604, ch. 95-148.

373.335 Clearinghouse.–The department, in conjunction with the water management districts, shall establish a statewide clearinghouse which will allow each water management district to access information regarding water well contractor licensees and their license numbers, any violation by any such licensee, and any disciplinary action taken by a water management district.

History.–ss. 18, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429.

373.336 Unlawful acts; penalties.–

(1) It is unlawful for any person to:

(a) Practice water well contracting without an active license issued pursuant to this part.

(b) Construct, repair, or abandon a water well, or operate drilling equipment for such purpose, unless employed by or under the supervision of a licensed water well contractor or exempt under s. 373.326.

(c) Give false or forged evidence to obtain a license.

(d) Present as his or her own the license of another.

(e) Use or attempt to use a license to practice water well contracting which license has been suspended, revoked, or placed on inactive status.

(f) Engage in willful or repeated violation of this part or of any department rule or regulation or water management district or state agency rule or regulation relating to water wells which endangers the public health, safety, and welfare.

(2) It is unlawful for a business entity to engage in water well contracting or to perform any activity for which a license as a water well contractor is required unless a licensed water well contractor is responsible for supervising such activity of the business entity.

(3) Any person who violates any provision of this part or regulation or order issued hereunder shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. Continuing violation after an order or conviction shall constitute a separate violation for each day so continued.

History.–s. 11, part III, ch. 72-299; s. 17, ch. 73-190; s. 1, ch. 84-94; ss. 19, 23, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 57, ch. 91-224; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 605, ch. 95-148.

373.337 Rules.–The department shall adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 to implement the provisions of this part, providing each water management district and representatives of the water well contracting industry with meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the rules as they are drafted. The rules shall be adopted by each water management district.

History.–ss. 20, 24, ch. 88-242; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 85, ch. 98-200.

373.342 Permits.–

(1) The governing board of any water management district which, pursuant to the authority delegated to it by the department under s. 373.308 or s. 373.309, regulates water wells may in its discretion authorize its executive director to issue permits for the construction, repair, or modification of any water well.

(2) In granting authority to its executive director under subsection (1), the governing board shall prescribe those certain circumstances in which such a permit may be issued.

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