Gov. DeSantis sets aside $100M in his budget for septic, wastewater improvements

Septic tank leakage is a major cause of harmful nutrients flowing into Florida’s troubled waterways. However, the state is trying to reduce this pollution through a $ 100 million program that is part of the budget proposed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Florida has become increasingly known in recent years for its blue-green algae blooms, some of which are fed by leaky or inadequate sewage systems.

While farms and urban areas bring more nutrients to inland and coastal waterways, septic tanks are also part of the problem. Experts say switching to urban sewer systems will help.

“It’s a big problem in Charlotte, County,” said Jennifer Hecker, director of the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership, which also includes Estero Bay. “You have identified many trouble spots polluting the port and we are trying to strengthen the science that underscores why this investment is needed.”

Hecker said water quality is the number one problem in their community, and people largely understand the need to switch to urban sewage.

However, in most cases, the switch will cost tens of thousands of dollars.

This type of funding could be used to offset homeowner expenses, she said.

“In some cases it’s too costly, which is why we need cost-sharing programs,” said Hecker. “It’s necessary, but the bottom line is that it costs some homeowners $ 30,000. And in rural areas, it can be even more onerous.”

Many older neighborhoods in southwest Florida have been built with septic tanks, most of which require regular maintenance to avoid failure.

They are still installed today in areas such as San Carlos Park, a densely built community on the edge of Mullock Creek and on the northeast side of Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.

The community is located near protected wetlands, which is where septic tanks can do the most damage.

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Jacki Lopez of the Center for Biological Diversity said the money on septic conversion is good, but Florida can clean up its waterways by enforcing existing rules and regulations.

“Florida’s environment could use ever more resources and better enforce our existing laws and regulations,” said Lopez. “We need a sustainable sewer infrastructure, but I think too much money is being spent on studies. We know what the problems are.”

Lopez said the state’s waterways would improve if Florida better enforced so-called Best Management Practices (BMPs) for all farms. The program is currently carried out on a voluntary basis.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said the money is needed and that hopefully it will help some communities clean up their water systems.

“I know there are many local communities waiting for the state to help,” said Cassani. “I’m not sure how far $ 100 million will go, but it sounds like a good start to me.”

State officials say the money will help improve the state’s natural resources and expedite Everglades restoration projects, some of which are 20 years old.

“This critical funding will enable us to further accelerate Everglades restoration, improve water quality, conserve and manage state land, and improve coastal resilience in vulnerable communities,” said Noah Valenstein, director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in a press release, will bolster the state’s unwavering commitment to improving the health of the Florida environment and ensuring that our natural resources are a legacy for future generations. “

Hecker said the funding would be really helpful if it somehow offset the cost of homeowners hooked up to urban sewer systems.

“If the state makes an offer to cut these costs, the transition will be accelerated to help people get out of the septic tank, and that in turn will improve water quality,” Hecker said.

Connect with this reporter: @ChadEugene on Twitter.

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