board member OSFR
High Springs OK’s giant expansion of city sewer system
By Ronald Dupont Jr.
HIGH SPRINGS — The High Springs City Commission never seemed so happy to spend almost $9 million.
In what could be described as a festive mood, the city learned that Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the city’s sewer system was going to cost far less than originally proposed, dropping from well over $10 million to less than $9 million.
Linda Young has written an opinion piece in the Gainesville Sun. Continue reading to see this informative piece. Click HERE to see the original which appeared in the Sun on August 24, 2008.
The rush to flush Florida’s waterBy LINDA L. YOUNG
Special to The Sun
Published: Sunday, August 24, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 at 12:50 a.m.
While it has slowed down recently, Florida’s growth has boomed in recent years. Unfortunately, this growth has created a lot of problems since it has outpaced our ability or willingness to address its impacts. Schools, roads, water supplies are all strained. And nowhere is this crisis more apparent than in Florida’s sewage treatment infrastructure.
A recent report issued by Clean Water Network of Florida (www.cleanwaternetwork-fl.org) provides evidence of serious infrastructure disfunction in many communities along the Gulf Coast of the state. Some of the most common problems we found were: aging sewage systems with mechanical and capacity problems; frequent, chronic spills and leakage of pathogen and nutrient-laden untreated or poorly treated sewage wastewater into the environment; use of poorly treated wastewater in spray irrigation systems; groundwater pollution caused by inadequately treated sewage from injection wells and rapid infiltration basins; increased permitting of leak-prone septic tank systems.
To add to the problems, lax enforcement by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has enabled a situation where it is cheaper for municipalities and private treatment plant operators to simply pay the fines rather than repair and upgrade these facilities.
Data clearly show that our sewage wastewater infrastructure is not keeping pace with our growth and tourism. Given the fact that Florida’s $4 billion to $5 billion a year water-related tourism is based upon having clean water in our bays, rivers and beach waters, this situation should be of concern to everyone.
While funding for infrastructure is always limited, there are creative ways to pay for needed upgrades. The city of Sanibel for instance wanted to remove septic tanks and improve its treatment facility. After educating the public on the benefits, a vote was taken that resulted in the community agreeing to tax itself to help pay for sewage system improvements. More funding came from tap fees and monthly service fees, and now the city is 90% finished with its upgrades.
Another obvious need is better compliance with our laws. FDEP enforcement of wastewater violations should be swift and certain, with stiff fines that discourage sloppiness. Moratoriums on new hookups should kick in when there are chronic problems, and when a facility is at capacity.
If we are to make any real progress, the state must set higher goals for wastewater treatment. Legislators should start by requiring all sewage treatment facilities to be at least Advanced Waste Treatment. Nutrient and microbe-laden secondary treatment should become a thing of the past. Our lawmakers should also ban all new surface water discharges, and phase out existing ones.
Spills should have better tracking and public notice, especially if they are a source of beach contamination. During the last legislative session, State Sen. Mike Bennett made a noble attempt to do this (SB 1634), but unfortunately his bill died in committee. We hope he will try again next year, and get better support.
Safe and effective wastewater disposal is not out of our reach. But it can only be accomplished if citizens demand it, and if there is the political will among decision makers to take action. The alternative is for things to only get worse. Raw or poorly treated sewage wastewater will continue to pour out of leaky pipes, overflowing treatment ponds, and poorly designed sprayfields, in a steady and increasing flow to the Gulf of Mexico, making it Florida’s toilet. I don’t think anyone wants that to be our legacy to future generations.
Citizens who want more information about sewage treatment and disposal in their communities can contact Clean Water Network of Florida at 850-222-8701 or [email protected] .
Clean Water Network of Florida has more than 200 group members and thousands of individuals who work together to protect Florida’s springs, wetlands, rivers, estuaries and coastal waters.
Linda L. Young is director of the Clean Water Network of Florida.
Water Infrastructure opinion piece from Linda Young