What is the MACTEC Report?
In the 2006-2007 General Appropriations Act, line item 1798, the Florida Legislature established the following requirement for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP):
From the funds in Specific Appropriation 1798, $250,000 from the General Revenue Fund is provided to conduct a Wekiva River and Florida Aquifer study to determine nitrate impacts to the system.
The Divisions of Water Resource Management and Environmental Assessment & Restoration undertook the required study in conjunction with the St. Johns River Water Management District. It was divided into two phases,
Phase I of the study involved an assessment of available data on nitrate impacts to the Wekiva River and Floridan aquifer system, preliminary identification of relative nitrate contributions to water resources in the area and an identification of data gaps to be filled. The work was performed under contract by MACTEC, Inc., a large consulting company that specializes in a wide variety of scientific and engineering disciplines
Phase II of the department’s study tested and supplemented the work MACTEC did in Phase I. The purpose was to provide an assessment of nutrient impacts on water quality in the Wekiva area to influence future public policy decisions at the state, regional and local levels.
Why is the MACTEC Report inadequate for the purpose of directing public policy?
The Study’s criteria was limited to only three homes in Central Florida, one in Seminole County, one is Orange County and one in Lake County. Based on a sampling of only three sites, the State and environmental organizations have attempted to redirect millions of State and citizen dollars for the remediation of perceived nitrogen issues. As an example, attempts have been made to replace 2.5 million septic systems in the State of Florida based on an assumption that all septic systems are directly polluting the aquifer.
MACTEC, the firm contracted to do the study included a warning ‘not to use the report to extrapolate over the entire State’, yet the report continues to be the gold standard for setting State policy.
Testing Methodology Failures
The testing at Orange County Florida’s home site was typical of the results and provided no real conclusions to the discussion of nitrogen sources entering the groundwater.
The Orange County study site was located approximately 1.1 miles south and west of Wekiva Springs State Park, the source of the Wekiva River. This river is considered in the primary area of concern because of its vulnerabilities. The site consisted of a four bedroom, two and a half bathroom, single family home built in 1996. The size was approximately 2680 square feet. Resident history was that there were two occupants up to month prior to the study when occupancy dropped to one. The home was on .3 acres. Ground water flowed to the south and east, not in the direction of the State Park.
The summary testing indicated that a 1,050 gallon septic system, installed in 1996 was in good working order. The tank and 638 square foot drain field were designed, installed and inspected, meeting county and State codes. The system had never been pumped or repaired.
The summary document entitled “Multiple Nitrogen Loading Assessments From Onsite Waste Treatment and Disposal Systems Within the Wekiva River Basin” dated May 2007 produced by Ellis & Associates, goes on to provide this additional summary comment:
The mass loading of the Orange County site (the total amount of nitrogen it places into the environment) ranges from 2.95 to 5.64 pounds of total nitrogen a year per person.
This is equivalent to about the same amount of nitrogen used by a mature tree to sustain its health. Source: Stockton Tree Foundation