County Septic to Sewer Projects
Since 2005, studies have shown that septic systems are negatively impacting our fragile Florida environment. Locally, it has been proven that failing septic systems in Leon County are contributing to degradation of water quality in Wakulla Springs. To support the upgrade or elimination of septic tanks in the Primary Springs Protection Zone, Leon County has aggressively pursued state grants to convert septic tanks to sewer systems. To date, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has awarded Leon County $9 million in grant funding for septic to sewer conversion projects.
Wastewater flows from a home into the septic tank where heavy solids settle to the bottom. The settled material is called sludge. The liquid waste then flows into a distribution system, usually a drainfield where it is dispersed into the soil for final treatment and disposal.
Regular septic tank system maintenance and inspection will help to limit the amount of pollutants entering into the environment and improve the health of your septic system. Improperly maintained septic tanks can wreak havoc in surrounding ecosystems, as wastewater that is not correctly treated can contaminate surface and groundwater and compromise the purity of lakes, rivers and streams. Additionally, increased nitrates can lead to a loss of marine life and plants.
Signs of Septic System Malfunction Can Include:
- Wastewater backing up into household drains;
- A strong odor around the septic tank and drainfield; and
- Bright green, spongy grass appearing on the drainfield, even during dry weather.
Check out the City of Tallahassee's video to learn more about how nutrients pollute and flow into Wakulla Springs.
How Leon County Makes an Impact
As part of our commitment to protect our natural resources, Leon County has taken action to reduce groundwater nitrogen levels through wastewater projects. Through the implementations of our FY2017-2021 Strategic Plan, Leon County has aggressively and successfully pursued state grant funds to remove septic tanks in the Primary Springs Protection Zone. Leon County has made it a priority to:
- Implement the adopted Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) for Wakulla Springs including bringing central sewer to Woodville and implementing requirements for advanced wastewater treatment; and
- Reduce nitrogen impacts in the Primary Springs Protection Zone by identifying cost effective and financially feasible ways including the development of a septic tank replacement program and evaluating a requirement for new construction to use advanced wastewater treatment systems.
In the progress to date, Leon County has exceeded its goal of upgrading or eliminating 500 septic tanks, reaching 610 septic tank upgrades or eliminations thus far. Construction is nearing completion in the Woodside Heights neighborhood, while septic to sewer design is currently underway for the Belair, Annawood, Yon's Lakeside, and Idlewild subdivisions as well as the Woodville Rural Community. The Wilkinson Woods subdivision is planned to receive upgrades to septic systems which will also reduce the nutrient loads from existing residences in that area. The Woodville Phase 1A construction will occur June 2023.
In 2019, Leon County received a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Small Community Wastewater Treatment Grant to support the development of a Wastewater Treatment Feasibility Analysis for the Upper Wakulla River Basin Management Action Plan Focus Area. This grant is a part of FDEP's program to fund wastewater treatment feasibility analyses for counties implementing a septic system remediation plan. The grant requires Leon County to conduct a septic system inventory; assess existing wastewater treatment capacity and infrastructure as well as potential infrastructure upgrade and expansion options; and evaluate cost-effective project solutions, financing alternatives and potential rate-payer and homeowner impacts.
Comprehensive Wastewater Treatment Facilities Plan
In addition to pursuing grant funding, Leon County has worked with Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency on the Comprehensive Wastewater Treatment Facilities Plan study, which evaluates wastewater management alternatives to traditional septic systems in order to reduce nitrogen entering the groundwater. The end product will provide recommendations and direction on which type of wastewater technology should be used to improve existing structures and future developments to improve water quality throughout the unincorporated area. It is expected to be presented to the Board of County Commissioners in 2020.
Contractor selection: December 2018
Public meetings: August 2019 - November 2019
Presentation to County Commission: April 2020
How You Can Help
Homeowners can take an active role in preventing septic tank pollution, including scheduling and performing regular septic tank checks. To check if your address is eligible for a grant-funded septic-to-sewer project, click here. Please note, only certain addresses located in the Primary Springs Protection Zone are eligible.