Hundreds of thousands of mismanaged and failing septic systems are freely operating throughout Florida because of 50+ years of a flawed septic system permitting program. We are doing nothing to assist septic system owners to keep their systems operating as efficiently as possible. We just permit the systems and walk away.
“(1) 99 percent of septic tanks in Florida are not under any management or maintenance requirements. Also, the report found that while these systems were designed and installed in accordance with the regulations at the time of construction and installation, many are aging and may be under-designed by today’s standards. (2) The DOH’s statistics indicate that approximately 2 million septic systems are 20 years or older, which is the average lifespan of a septic system in Florida. Because repairs of septic systems were not regulated or permitted by the DOH until March 1992, some septic systems may have been unlawfully repaired, modified or replaced. Furthermore, 1.3 million septic systems were installed prior to 1983. Pre-1983 septic systems were required to have a six-inch separation from the bottom of the drainfield to the estimated seasonal high-water table. (3)The standard since 1983 for drainfield separation is 24 inches and is based on the 1982 Water Quality Assurance Act and on research findings compiled by the DOH that indicate for septic tank effluent, the presence of at least 24 inches of unsaturated fine sandy soil is needed to provide a relatively high degree of treatment for pathogens and most other septic system effluent constituents. Therefore Florida’s pre-1983 septic systems and any illegally repaired, modified or installed septic systems may not provide the same level of protection expected from systems permitted and installed under current construction standards.”
This adds an estimated 15 MILLION lbs. of nitrogen to our waters every year. To put this in perspective this is equal to connecting 652,173 septic systems to sewer at a cost of $19.5 BILLION annually, and it grows bigger every year. This is easily preventable and affordable to fix, but we do nothing. The 10 million lbs. of nitrogen are over and above the nitrogen contamination numbers provided by the state, as they do not acknowledge the additional nitrogen contamination from the mismanaged and failing septic systems in their nitrogen reduction plans.
WE CAN DO BETTER!
(1) Florida Dep’t of Health, Bureau of Onsite Sewage, Report on Range of Costs to Implement a Mandatory Statewide 5-Year Septic Tank Inspection Program, October 1, 2008. (2) Florida Dep’t of Health, Bureau of Onsite Sewage, Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems in Florida (2010.(3) Florida Dep’t of Heath, Bureau of Onsite Sewage, Bureau of Onsite Sewage Programs Introduction.
FL's flawed septic system program adds 15 M lbs. N/yr equal to septic-to-sewer 625,173 sys/cost $15B
Florida's septic systems can contaminate our waters in several ways. Florida allows its septic systems to operate in a neglected state, far past their life expectancy, and lets their unregulated raw sewage be pumped and dumped throughout the state. These contamination sources are easily preventable. The quality of our waters and the proper upkeep of our septic systems are interrelated. Everyday decisions can adversely affect the operation of our septic systems and their ability to protect our health and environment. Helping septic system owners take better care of their septic systems is a health and environmental benefit to everyone in Florida. After all, the purpose of our septic systems is to treat household liquid waste to prevent it from contaminating our beaches, wells, lakes, streams, springs and groundwater. If we are not properly maintaining these systems they are not protecting our waters. Containing septic system nitrogen and taking better care of our existing septic systems is our first line of defense in reducing their nitrogen. Pound per pound, dollar for dollar septic system remediation is the quickest, most efficient and effective way to reduce septic system nitrogen.
Advanced septic systems add 4 lbs. of nitrogen to our waters compared to a moden septic system.
The State of Florida has an estimated 2.6 million septic systems operating throughout the state and permits an estimated 30-40,000 more every year. A conventional septic system has a life expectancy of 20-25 years provided they are properly maintained. It is an accepted practice throughout the state to allow our 2.6 million septic systems to operate while not being properly maintained and with a significant amount of them being well beyond their life expectancy. Our state allows an estimated 2.2 billion gallons of unregulated raw sewage from septic systems to be pumped and dumped annually, without knowing if it is disposed of properly. A septic system failure study shows that 23% of the newly permitted septic systems installed today are estimated to fail and 15% more are estimated to fail within the next five years. This adds 140,000 pounds of nitrogen a year from newly permitted septic systems and an additional 84,000 pounds of nitrogen every fifth year. A fair assessment of at least 50% of our septic systems are operating in a neglected state and the potential of at least 10% of our transported raw sewage is being improperly disposed. This contamination is all due to a mismanaged septic system program. This does not have to happen, it's easily preventable, and affordable to fix, but we do nothing.
Failing septic system rules & regs will continue to contaminate FL's waters with 10M+ lbs. N/yr.
A never discussed nitrogen pollution source is the estimated billions of gallons of raw sewage being pumped, transported and disposed all over the State of Florida. Very little known about where the raw sewage goes after it is pumped from a septic system. Florida uses the honor system to manage the transportation and disposal of pumped septic waste. If septic system sewage is not dumped in a state-approved facility, the state agencies do not recognize its existence and certainly do not count it as a pollution or nitrogen contamination source. There is no management in place to track the transported raw sewage, to know how many septic tanks are pumped or if the waste is properly dumped in a state-approved facility under our current septic system regulations.
Est. 2.2 billion gals of sewage is pumped -n-dumped all over the state without any accountability.
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