Algae task force meeting to focus on septic tanks in SWFL water crisis

When it comes to water quality issues, there is no one source to blame. But, an upcoming agenda meeting will focus on the role septic tanks play.

Right now, about 100,000 people in Lee County have active septic systems.

“If you’re in a rural area or far enough away from the infrastructure,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, member of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, “septic tank makes sense.”

Florida Gulf Coast University Professor Parsons said sewers might become more suitable as those areas become more developed.

“Then you have all the costs associated with it,” Parsons said.

To back up that claim, Lee County commissioned a study by Florida Atlantic University. The study found that human waste is a substantial part of our water quality issues.

Septic tanks dating back to the 1950s are not protecting our water, allowing sewage to end up in the Caloosahatchee River and other waterways.

“If you have an older septic system or one that’s not functioning properly,” Parsons said, “it’s not going to be effectively removing the organic matter and breaking it down.”

FAU studied the Hancock and Powell creek areas where more than 2,000 septic tanks exist. County commissioners are now looking at septic to sewer, septic retrofitting and stormwater management.

Parsons said it comes down to the performance of the system.

“And what sort of nutrient sources are they putting into the system?” Parsons said. “I’m hoping we continue our progress in terms of understanding how Florida deals with water issues, how Florida deals with the nutrient issues.”

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Michael Mora