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No one wants our water supply to be safe and clean more than I do. Having numerous times watched the Jan. 27 workshop video on the City of DeBary website, regarding DeBary’s proposed septic-to-sewer program, I have gleaned the following:

We are under state mandate to reduce the nitrogen/nutrient load level in Gemini Springs.

DeBary is formulating a “plan” to deal with this mandate.

According to the pie chart presented by “consultants,” the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has determined that 51 percent of the nitrogen/nutrient load in the springs comes from urban turfgrass, sport turfgrass and farm fertilizers. 

The same pie chart shows 41 percent of the nitrogen/nutrient load comes from septic systems.

According to Volusia County and DeBary, we can address the 51-percent problem only via an ordinance that attempts to curtail fertilizer type and use in the summer, but is basically unenforceable because:

While we can ban fertilizer use, we cannot ban fertilizer sales because of the huge fertilizer lobby.

DeBary’s stormwater system map (found on the City of DeBary website) shows that most of DeBary’s stormwater (read “fertilizer and other runoff”) is diverted via our stormwater system from as far north as Glen Abbey and Lake Marie through a series of now-interconnected lakes and pipes directly through town, down to the springs.

But we can’t do anything about that, because of the deep pockets of the fertilizer lobbyists, therefore:

We will deal with the lesser 41-percent problem via a septic-to-sewer program — instead of dealing with the 51-percent problem of fertilizer use and stormwater runoff.

Our paid “consultants” (Jones Edmunds) tell us that we can develop a septic-to-sewer plan — which they openly admit they don’t know if it can meet the target goals, or how much it will cost or where the funds will come from, but insist we must move fast and commit to it anyway, because having a “shovel-ready plan” will increase the odds of getting funding.

Notably, only one of the DeBary City Council members even lives in the target area, which includes most of DeBary from Highbanks Road south; also of note, our state experts admit it is doubtful that swimming will be permitted in the springs even after the sewer conversion is complete, because of other sources of pollution.

The consultants (registered as lobbyists with the state, by the way) “hope” some funding and grants will be available to help defray the cost to affected homeowners, but there’s no guarantee.

The consultants also admit that streets will be torn up, many long-term, that the traffic problems and other inconveniences are something we’ll have to learn to live with.

In addition to the approximately $15,000-$20,000 initial cost per homeowner and the additional cost of monthly sewer bills, homeowners will have to pay to “mediate” their old systems, but hey, maybe the government might offer us some low-interest loans to help.

They do not ever address the fact that a great many people will be forced out of their homes because the plan is unaffordable. (Perhaps that is what the “plan” is really all about?)

What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, we have a problem. Yes, it needs to be addressed. But there are numerous unintended long-term consequences to the septic-to-sewer plan that no one is addressing.

A simpler, less disruptive, far more affordable solution already exists: Mandate the “Florida Friendly Yards” program, which encourages the reduction of turfgrass, fertilizer use and irrigation, and encourages the conversion to native trees and plants in the landscape that require no fertilizer and little or no irrigation. 

We have excellent people in Volusia County Pollution Control as well as the Farm Bureau who I’d bet would be happy to assist, if only the HOAs, lobbyists, consultants and other “stakeholders” would just get out of the way. Always, always follow the money.

And for the record, Florida state law (statute 373.185, Florida Friendly Landscaping) “prohibits government entities … from enacting or enforcing any governing document to prevent homeowners from implementing Florida-friendly Landscaping principles.”

— DeSantis lives in DeBary.

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