It’s with great sadness we report that Senator Greg Evers has passed away. We will miss him, and never forget that in all his years in office, he championed fairness, integrity, and common sense. His door was always open to listen, even if you did not live in his district. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family and all those that considered themselves his family.
IN THIS ISSUE:
In the process of cleaning out the mountain of paperwork, notes, to do lists, etc. that have accumulated as a result of 7 years of monitoring meetings, reading legislation and annual reports from advisory committees, working groups, agencies; following professional associations activities; reading news feeds, research papers, and media publications, publishing white papers and articles, and on and on…..I need a backhoe. However, the exercise of mulling over all the tidbits and treasures of information is responsible for this article.
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECTIONS
Big hullabaloo between 2010 and 2012 over the repeal of legislation mandating statewide septic system inspections. Newspapers and groups went nuts. Most news outlets reported the repeal, but did not mention the replacement inspection statute that still stands, nor did they mention the real reason the original statute was repealed and replaced. The real reason was the Dept. of Health Bureau of Onsite Sewage writing pass/fail rules that doubled the cost of a simple inspection and virtually guaranteed that every system in the state would fail the inspection and be required to replace it – in effect nullifying permits they inspected and approved as “protective of groundwater.” Homeowners were okay with inspections, just not the rules. When legislators found out about the rules, the actual cost of the rules, and potential property rights violations, they were none too happy either, which is why the statute was repealed and replaced.
The Atlantic Coast town of Sewall’s Point has opted out of Martin County’s $11 million-dollar Septic to Sewer conversion proposal. The town is instead considering inspections as a means of assuring septic systems are operating properly. Residents are engaged and expressing their concerns and objections, which include contesting that septic systems are a significant contributor to the algae blooms plaguing the Indian River Lagoon Area, that Lake Okeechobee discharges are the main cause of the problem.
SEPTIC SYSTEM INVENTORY
Simple, right? Identify the information to be tracked, issue the county permit, record it, gather it at the central oversight location, update the inventory. As requirements and technology change, make the system more responsive, more robust, and easy to use. Integrated, distributed software to track inventory of any kind has been commercially available for decades! The DOH Bureau of Onsite Sewage doesn’t seem to have one!
As recently as a few months ago, the question was raised if the latest DOH Bureau of Onsite Sewage inventory completed last year was integrated, tying the data generated in the 67 counties that issue permits to a main database in Tallahassee. The answer was “No.” Which raises a couple of questions:
How does the Bureau track the performance-based and aerobic systems that require fees paid to DOH by the homeowner to renew annual and semi-annual operating permits, maintenance contracts and periodic inspections?
How will the Bureau track the new, so-called “passive” nitrogen-reducing systems that will be permitted as performance-based systems? If no one is tracking anything, it means no one is managing anything, so what is the fee covering?
Speaking of not tracking anything….the homeowner has no way of knowing if the contractor that just pumped out their tank took the contents to the nearest wastewater treatment plant, or whether the contents were dumped into the nearest storm water drain or into some remote creek in the woods. When homeowners get a pump out estimate, it usually includes a fee to cover the cost of treatment plant disposal. Paying the fee means nothing. Don’t you think tracking disposal with a manifest given to the homeowner and signed by the plant operator would be a good idea? Don’t you think an interactive inventory system would be a handy means of automatically updating the records for an individual system, or a means of providing oversight for contractors the Bureau licenses and is supposed to monitor, or reprimand? Not happening, folks. But, sources report the Bureau just got funding to do yet another inventory.
SOUTH FLORIDA’S POOP CANNONS
Apparently, Miami has the responsibility to inspect and maintain two of the six. One shoots 100 million gallons of partially treated waste 3.6 miles offshore, and the other, 143 million gallons a day. Last August, a fisherman reported a leak in one of the pipes less than a mile offshore, but nothing was done. Neither of the pipes installed in 1956 and 1975 has been inspected since 2006.
Miami Herald reports the Miami Waterkeeper diver found the leak contained solids, fecal coliform, phosphorus, nitrogen, copper, cyanide, mercury, nickel, zinc, and fecal enterococci. No one knows how much sewage was spilled, or where it went.
Recently, millions of EPA 319 grant dollars were spent in the Keys to convert septic systems to performance-based treatment systems (PBTS), blaming them for the degradation of the coral reefs. The whole project did not go well, and the PBTS systems failed at the most basic level to perform as advertised. Just follow the Gulf Stream (see diagram below) and ask yourself, how likely is it that the six 50 to 70-year-old poop cannons slamming billions of gallons of untreated or partially treated waste offshore have more impact on the coral reefs than a few isolated septic systems?
Further north, Ft. Lauderdale has spilled more than 20 million gallons of raw sewage into waterways in the last two years that they are now under a “consent” order – meaning, court enforced clean up orders and fines. A new article reports that, despite the known issues with the aging pipes, and a projected $1 billion needed over the next 20 years for repairs, more than $100 million has been diverted recently from the utilities’ water and sewage fund to pay for other budget items.
An article published in May 2017 by the Associated Press looked at the Indian River Lagoon problem indicates that the lagoon was relatively healthy until the building boom that began in 2000. In the past 17 years, 1,500,000 people moved into the six counties along the lagoon, and more than 500,000 new homes were built. Since the DOH Bureau of Onsite Sewage claims to have permitting records dating back to 1996, it should be relatively easy to determine how many of those homes are on sewers and how many are on septic systems. The article also mentions pollution-filtering wetlands were filled in to accommodate this development. Agencies and local governments issued permits to fill in the wetlands. More questions: How many septic systems were permitted in this area in the last 17 years? How many wetland acres were lost? Anyone interested in researching the statistics? Who in their right mind would recommend shutting down septic systems and pushing more waste into failing sewer systems and poop cannons?
I’m busy throwing away articles saved for this issue, but expect more. BMAP’s are in full swing. That’s next. Before the legislature meets again, I sincerely hope they are also doing their homework, so that the $$$$$ are allocated only after vigorous questioning and with a healthy degree of priority setting.