Septic tank funding to better health of residents, St. Johns River

Septic tank funding to better health of residents, St. Johns River

The City and JEA are teaming up this year to make good on a promise to protect the beauty and health of the St. Johns River, which defines and molds the historic neighborhoods. Contaminants in the river have long been a concern, especially for residents who boat on it, bike and walk to it, or pay a bit of an upcharge to dine in restaurants where they can view it. But for years, outdated septic tanks throughout Jacksonville have been leeching contaminants that can cause sickness.

In 2016, the City began a program to take out the tanks but ran out of funding. This February, thanks to new funding from both the City and JEA, many septic tanks that have been leaching fecal coliform bacteria into the water table are being removed. The bacteria have been making its way into the river’s silvery waves for years, and in 2016, the City approved a project to provide infrastructure to connect those with septic tanks to City-provided water and sewer. The program will take a while, but to restart it the City of Jacksonville leaders earlier this year announced they were putting aside $14.3 million and JEA was adding another $12.5 million to ameliorate the problem.

Fecal coliform bacteria are microorganisms associated with the intestinal track of warm-blooded animals and that can contaminate waterways and drinking water, according to the St. Johns County RIVERKEEPER. Tributaries of the St. Johns River often contain dangerous levels of these bacteria due to the failing tanks as well as poorly treated wastewater, broken sewer lines and animal waste. In the Lower Basin of the river, which extends from Welaka to Jacksonville, most of the 75 streams listed as impaired due to elevated levels of the bacteria are in Jacksonville.

There is not enough funding yet to remove all of the failing septic tanks in the area and provide hook ups. The City/JEA project is currently targeting neighborhoods in the City’s Northwest. But some on the City Council hope to extend the program sometime soon into the historic neighborhoods.

“We have 5,000 septic tanks in our district, and the area I am most concerned about is the Lakeshore area,” District 14 City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor said. “I am hopeful that can be addressed sooner versus later. That would have to happen after the other three neighborhoods.”

At the moment, the three neighborhoods prioritized for the septic tank phase-out include the Biltmore neighborhood, where more than $17 million was already used to complete the project, the Beverly Hills neighborhood, where $38 million is allocated and is currently underway, and, now that additional funding has been secured, the project could expand to the Christobel community, according to a City news release.

District 8 City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman said in a news release that the project has been in the making 50 years.

“As the Councilwoman of District 8, the City needs to make good on the 50-year commitment via consolidation and resolve the broken promises to the residents. They have waited long enough for this project to be completed and come to fruition.”

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)