The Wekiwa Springs Protection BMAP (Basin Management Action Plan) is a water quality restoration plan prepared pursuant to Section 403.067(7), Florida Statutes. The plan affecting Seminole, Orange and Lake county’s homeowners was signed into law by FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. It became effective in July 2018. In addition to the Wekiwa BMAP, there are twelve other Springs Protection BMAP’s. In Wekiwa, there are 55,000 homes with 25,000 placed in a priority focus area. In Florida, there are over a quarter of a million homes affected by the Springs Protection BMAP’s.
The distant drums have been quiet since BMAP was signed into law. We have only heard from the environmental community that believes the law is too lenient, and it takes too long to produce results. Five of the Springs Protection BMAP’s are being challenged primarily by environmental groups. Ignored by all is the fact that the causes of our water quality issues have little or no science behind them. Most remediation plans attack property rights and “stop growth” strategies targeting rural development. Clearly, if you own a home, whether you use a septic system or a sewer, you will be impacted by BMAP. Your government is about to spend your money, and a lot of it.
Why haven’t we heard about the status of many BMAP plans? There can be only a few causes for this. First, our counties, strapped for money, do not have the time nor interest to develop a plan that they have no funding for. Counties need State dollars to move forward on any good plan. The alternative would be to just stick the homeowners with the entire bill. That is not a winning strategy in politics. This lack of state funding was clearly the reason no county in Florida adopted a septic system inspection ordinance when in 2012 they were given by statute the authority to do so.
The second potential reason we have had little feedback about the BMAP’s could be that homeowners have given up and are suffering from a severe case of apathy. Apathy is a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, and concern, a state of indifference. Yet, BMAP, if left to its own poorly defined strategies, will lower home values, add thousands per year to the upkeep of a home and force many to alter lifestyles in ways that are unacceptable to most rational people.
This edition of The Sludge Report is dedicated to our home county, Orange County. First, we are issuing a wake-up call to all residents in the Wekiwa BMAP area: BY 2038, ALL 55,000 AFFECTED WEKIWA HOMES MUST REMOVE THEIR CONVENTIONAL SEPTIC SYSTEMS AND REPLACE THEM WITH SOMETHING ELSE.
It is also important to highlight an example of positive BMAP movement and leadership coming from Christine Moore, our home county District 2 commissioner, who is reaching out to the community with a plan to help homeowners and the county eat this “Wekiwa BMAP elephant,” one bite at a time.
Orange County Commissioner Moore has created a Wekiwa Springs Alliance. The intent is to begin a dialogue using the Homeowner Associations in her district to discuss plans and gather feedback. This two-way communication is intended to address BMAP and other local concerns in a direct and public forum. One of the intentions here is to bring gravity fed sewers to District 2 through a plan that leverages existing infrastructure and proper stewardship of our tax dollars. While gravity fed sewers may seem expensive, The Sludge Report has calculated that some of the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) solutions can cost a homeowner over $80,000 during a 20-year period. The high cost of advanced septic systems comes from several factors:
Complex electro/mechanical devices do not last as long as conventional passive tanks and drainfields. Their life span is only about half as long. They require maintenance contracts, repairs and thanks to FDOH, annual inspections and renewable permits. With such a high cost, the option of gravity fed sewers may very well be the most affordable solution for a community and the one most likely to preserve home values.
For the environmentalist in the crowd, gravity fed sewers carry away 100% of the nutrient problem that BMAP is intended to solve. Sewers take ALL NUTRIENTS to a treatment plant that is held to Federal Clean Water Standards. Sewers also work without power and offer considerably more reliability than the choices now being offered by FDOH. Our own Department of Health’s testing of advanced system solutions show them to offer the environment little or no benefit when compared to conventional tank and drainfield replacement. Let’s be smart in Florida. Let’s do the right thing for a change.
Not every county is taking this bold approach. We have heard of a few that are planning grinder sewers. Those county leaders are selling their constituents out completely. Grinders do not work well; they are not a safe and reliable replacement for sewers. In Indian River County, the Town of Vero Beach has taken a pro-active role, working with industry to develop affordable and reliable hybrid solutions. While not very well known, these hybrid septic-to-sewer solutions were developed and are being implemented with full public support of their homeowners. Hybrid solutions can minimize the cost and inconveniences and still carry 100% of the nutrients to a treatment plant. To find out more about all types of sewer solutions, you can access Sludge Report Resources for HOA’s HERE.
Thank you, Commissioner Moore, for stepping out early on this very challenging issue. There is no doubt that the homeowners in District 2 appreciate your commitment to make them part of the solution and will join your alliance. Together, we can show our State and other counties how government and taxpayers can work together for the common good of its people and the environment.