The American Water Security Project and Partners Applaud Florida TaxWatch’s Septic-to-Sewer: Protecting Florida’s Ground and Surface Water Report

Report provides commonsense recommendations to eliminate the threat to Florida’s waters by antiquated septic tank technologies.

ST PETERSBURG, Fla., Oct. 10, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The American Water Security Project, the Angler Action Foundation, and the Solar Energy Loan Fund applaud the release of Florida TaxWatch’s Septic-to-Sewer: Protecting Florida’s Ground and Surface Water Report. The report outlines four commonsense recommendations to combat the threat to Florida’s waters by antiquated septic tank technologies:

  • The Florida Legislature should task the Department of Environmental Protection to create, and comply with, a comprehensive plan to develop water and wastewater infrastructure statewide, including the development of central sewer lines and wastewater treatment facilities and the removal or enhancement of septic tanks. The approval of projects should be based upon established statewide priorities and demonstrated needs, following the model exhibited by the DOT Work Program.
  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection should work with the Florida Legislature to pass legislation that incorporates the provisions of Executive Order 23-06 into Florida Statutes.
  • Where central sewer is not possible, the Florida Legislature should require enhanced, nutrient-reducing technology for septic tanks within a BMAP or in an area with a high-water table.
  • The Florida Legislature should authorize the development and implementation of a septic tank inspection and monitoring program, as well as extend an existing financial assistance program or create a new financial assistance program to help economically challenged property owners remediate septic tank issues. The state should consider imposing a user fee on utilities that can be bonded against to sustain funding for septic conversions.

30 percent of Florida’s population utilizes septic systems to treat their residential waste. That 30 percent represents 12 percent of the United States’s septic tank usage. With 76 percent of Floridians living in coastal zones, septic tank effluent is too rarely mitigated, and is a completely preventable recipe for disaster. Septic tank effluent fuels harmful algal blooms; feeds really dangerous bacteria including Vibrio vulnificus, the “flesh-eating bacteria;” and contaminates ground and surface waters.

Florida’s water woes are fueled by many factors—aging, antiquated, and failing centralized wastewater systems; residential fertilizer usage; and traditional septic tanks in zones where ground water tables are rising and surface waters have direct contact with our state waters,” says Dr. Brandon D. Shuler, American Water Security Project’s executive director. “Septic tanks are Florida’s tragedy of the commons. Most folks on septic think that theirs is not the problem, but with 30 percent of our population on septic, collectively, we have a massive problem on our hands that affects tourism, water-based economies, and real estate values—this leads us to an entirely preventable economic issue.”

With Governor DeSantis’s and the Florida Legislature’s massive appropriations aimed at fixing Florida’s wastewater infrastructure, it is only appropriate that Florida TaxWatch makes sure that all aspects of Florida’s water infrastructure improvements are addressed efficiently, with strong fiscal discipline.

“For a state that champions itself as the Fishing Capital of the World and one whose economy is driven by water-based industries, relying upon antiquated septic tank technologies threatens the state’s economic health,” states Brett Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Angler Action Foundation. “We must take heed of Florida TaxWatchs Septic-to-Sewer: Protecting Floridas Ground and Surface Water report that outlines and encourages technologies that prevent or minimize the threats to our coastal and spring watersheds and the recreational and commercial fishing industries they support.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers rates Florida’s water infrastructure a lowly C-minus. We are overdue for upgrades. At the same time, we must find ways to lessen or eliminate the financial burden on residential septic tank conversions.

“Septic tank conversions are not cheap, but they also do not have to be a detrimental financial burden,” says Doug Coward, Founder of the nonprofit Solar Energy Loan Fund (SELF). “There are a number of financial resources available for consumers seeking to convert to centralized sewage. SELF offers unsecured micro loans for consumers seeking to convert to centralized sewage or replace outdated lateral lines. SELF has already partnered with Martin County to complete the first $1 million of septic to sewer conversion projects, and we have the capacity to do much more.”

Again, we congratulate Florida TaxWatch for a job well done and the Florida executive and legislative branches for taking Florida’s water quality issues seriously.

The American Water Security Project is a coalition of business leaders, scientists, engineers, policy experts, outdoor enthusiasts, conservation advocates, and thought leaders working to promote the urgent need for wastewater infrastructure upgrades to protect waters and water bodies around the country. The coalition educates on the negative effects of wastewater spills and dumps to residents, businesses, and tourism; communicates the social and ecological values of proper wastewater treatment; and advocates for remedies to correct the deficiencies. The American Water Security Project is a registered 501(c)3.