Life teaches lessons – if we pay attention! Pandemics are not new. Their frequency and impact on humanity are increasing in frequency, not diminishing. If we look at the history of pandemics, we can identify some disturbing trends.
As society gathered itself into more densely populated centers, and global travel between densely populated areas increased, so did the ability of diseases to spread rapidly. When those multi-million inhabitant population centers have not invested in providing safe water and food sources, a viable wastewater treatment infrastructure, or did not use personal sanitary practices, they were most likely to suffer the greatest infection rate and death toll. (We added a brief time-line summary at the bottom of this report.)
Unfortunately, just the sheer number of people living in close quarters has also contributed to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our major U.S. cities, as we have seen in Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, and Chicago, and Miami. Some espouse “sustainable” cities – urban development surrounded by green spaces – as the preferred method of saving the environment by preventing development outside of cities. The claim is this will lead to the efficient delivery of services to large population centers. Unfortunately, what we are actually experiencing is an efficient delivery of the COVID-19 virus within these population centers, leading to overwhelmed healthcare services, and a fractured economy.
The COVID-19 experience will teach us one important lesson. Reliable data supports reliable decisions and good outcomes. We need sound science. Therefore, we must test the population so we can intervene effectively to save lives and so that logistically we are prepared with supplies and healthcare providers. We must be sure the treatments and vaccine solutions work and don’t cause harm. Reliable data allows our limited resources to be allocated effectively to achieve the best outcome.
Now for our lesson: We don’t have reliable data when it comes to BMAP’s. Computer modeling, not reliable field data established the nitrogen load reduction goals and contributions by septic systems. Nitrogen reductions promised if we all use Advanced Septic Systems are not based on field tests conducted on systems already installed and in use by families. Cost data for advanced systems has never been collected from homeowners or providers.
In a nutshell, BMAP’s can’t scientifically demonstrate the size and scope of the “problem” they are trying to solve. BMAP’s can’t scientifically or truthfully say the “advanced” solution is either reliable or cost-effective. BMAP’s can’t promise to achieve anything of value when the data justifying the action plan either doesn’t exist or has not been included in the modeling. Good outcomes cannot be promised when there is no evidence that the solution will work as promoted.
BMAP’s, especially those for the Springs Protection Priority Focus Areas (PFA) need to be scrapped and rebuilt with real data. Why? Because, if sewers are not installed, and FDEP has no money or intent to subsidize the cost of the mandated “advanced” systems, 350,000 septic systems owners in BMAP PFA’s will have to take from their own pockets FIVE BILLION up front and FIVE MILLION annually with no guarantee the springs will benefit. 1 This is a recipe for failed objectives and astronomical costs destined to cripple the finances of either the State, homeowners, or both.
Back to COVID-19. As “stay safe” guidelines were issued to prevent the spread of the virus, my immediate response was to be grateful I did not yet have an “advanced” septic system – because the guidelines included with these systems warns the homeowner not to use bleach-based disinfectants and anti-bacterial soaps in the home. ( See our prior Sludge Report entitled “ADVANCED ONSITE WASTEWATER SYSTEMS “)Killing bacteria in your home would make many “advanced” models shut down, void their warranty, require a repair call, cause them to be damaged or less efficient at removing nitrogen than my present conventional system. Many systems are time-dosed, based on occupancy and computer modeling that does not account for the entire family being home under quarantine and using water all day. That just places you in a long list for people needing a service call. Does your legislator or the Governor know this? Are we being told we cannot do the very things CDC says will keep us safe and is the BMAP mandate to use advanced systems putting us in jeopardy and be less safe than the rest of the population?
An interesting article in the Ft. Meyers News-Press reported 183,000 gallons of raw sewage had been spilled. After reporting how the spill was being treated in neighborhoods, the publication cited a scientific journal that reported the COVID-19 virus can be excreted through feces for five to six weeks after a patient has recovered. The article also stated that the 2003 SARS virus was detectable and transmissible up to 14 days later in sewage aerosols (sprayfield or drip dispersion). WOW! If that’s the case, and “advanced” systems need service in the middle of a health crisis, are you really going to get service technicians, a plumber, to open up an advanced system in hazmat suits and risk their lives?
Final thought…look at the map. Where are the COVID-19 hot spots in Florida? Dark and medium blue areas are the hot spots – Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Ft. Meyers, Jacksonville, Orlando. All have their problems with crumbling infrastructure and crowded conditions that make “sustainable” cities not so sustainable. The gray areas are those most desirable for conservation land purchases. If land conservation purchases make less land available for development, if septic systems are no longer allowed and there are no housing developments outside of municipal service areas, where will we put the 6 million people projected to move to Florida in the next 10 years – in unsustainable cities? As we watch New York City and Los Angeles in melt down mode, we must question the premise and the promise of both the Springs Protection BMAP’s and of sustainable cities.
Stay safe everyone!
Time-line of World Pandemics
• 430 B.C.: Athens – two-thirds of the population died most probably of typhoid fever
• 165 A.D.: Antonine Plague -This plague continued until about 180 A.D. brought to the world by the Roman Army.
• 250 A.D.: Cyprian Plague – entailed diarrhea, vomiting, throat ulcers, fever and gangrenous hands and feet. City dwellers fled to the country to escape infection but instead spread the disease further. There were recurring outbreaks over the next three centuries.
• 541 A.D.: Justinian Plague – First appearing in Egypt, the Justinian plague spread through Palestine and the Byzantine Empire, and then throughout the Mediterranean.
• 11th Century: Leprosy – grew into a pandemic in Europe in the Middle Ages, resulting in the building of numerous leprosy-focused hospitals to accommodate the vast number of victims.
• 1350: The Black Death – Responsible for the death of one-third of the world population, this second large outbreak of the bubonic plague possibly started in Asia and moved west in caravans.
• 1492: The Columbian Exchange – Following the arrival of the Spanish in the Caribbean, diseases such as smallpox, measles and bubonic plague were passed along to the native populations by the Europeans.
• In 1520, the Aztec Empire was destroyed by a smallpox infection brought by African slaves.
• 1665: The Great Plague of London – In another devastating appearance, the bubonic plague led to the deaths of 20 percent of London’s population.
• 1817: First Cholera Pandemic – The first of seven cholera pandemics over the next 150 years
• 1855: The Third Plague Pandemic – Starting in China and moving to India and Hong Kong, the bubonic plague claimed 15 million victims.
• 1875: Fiji Measles Pandemic – Arriving during a measles outbreak, a traveling royal party brought the disease back to their island. One-third of Fiji’s population, a total of 40,000 people, died.
• 1889: Russian Flu – The first significant flu pandemic started in Siberia and Kazakhstan, traveled to Moscow, and made its way into Finland and then Poland, where it moved into the rest of Europe. By the following year, it had crossed the ocean into North America and Africa. By the end of 1890, 360,000 had died.
• 1918: Spanish Flu – The avian-borne flu that resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide, the 1918 flu was first observed in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia before swiftly spreading around the world.
• 1957: Asian flu – Starting in Hong Kong and spreading throughout China and then into the United States, the Asian flu became widespread in England where, over six months, 14,000 people died. A second wave followed in early 1958, causing an estimated total of about 1.1 million deaths globally, with 116,000 deaths in the United States alone.
- BMAP‘s are ambitious, governed by rules, not legislation. The rules could very well demand full replacement of all 2.7 million conventional septic systems in Florida. Full replacement could cost over 40 billion dollars ↩