Task force discusses septic/sewage as water quality concern contributors

The state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force met for the third time Thursday to discuss septic and sewer systems as potential contributors to the algae crisis in Southwest Florida.

“If we’re going to mitigate a problem, we need to know where the problem is,” said Dr. James Sullivan, task force member.

State leaders want to prevent water quality issues from stirring up again.

“Here in Florida, there’s no one thing we can do,” said Noah Valenstein, secretary of Florida Department of Environmental Protection. We have to work as a team. We all play a role in protecting the environment.”

Task force members want to explore innovative technology to detail with the issue. They all discussed regulating septic tanks and sanitary sewer overflows and how they affect our water quality today.

“We need to know if mitigation is actually affected,” Sullivan said. “Which means we also need technology and investment in better monitoring and protection.”

Another contributor to water quality concerns is more than a third of septic tanks in the state are in environmentally sensitive areas.

“We have 2.5 million estimated septic systems in the state now,” said Dr. Thomas Frazer, Floridas’ chief science officer.

The task force also talked about how rain water plays a role in sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), which were especially evident during events like Hurricane Irma.

“The rain events are so significant to SSOs being the majority, you know, 50 percent of SSOs,” said John Truitt, secretary of regulatory programs for the FDEP.

The task force said it will continue to discuss ideas before it makes recommendations to the state.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force is expected to meet through August. Regular meetings may happen less often after this month.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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