DeLeon Springs residents must move to modern, more expensive septic tanks, and now they have some money to help. Grant money to the total of $2.2 million, via state funding parceled out by Volusia County, is designated to supply $10,000 rebates to some residents to update their septic systems.
State standards for property near designated Outstanding Florida Springs, like the ones in DeLeon Springs State Park, triggered the requirements.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 22 percent of the nitrogen load to the spring is coming from the 3,938 septic tanks in a priority focus area of about 38 square miles around DeLeon Springs. Nitrogen from septic, fertilizer, and agricultural runoff can cause algae blooms, fish kills, and other harmful effects.
DeLeon Springs has been moving forward with some major improvements that will help overall: Namely, a sewer and wastewater line provided by the City of DeLand running through the main commercial corridor of the community along U.S. Highway 17 up to Louise S. McInnis Elementary School is nearing completion. The project could bolster economic growth along the corridor, allowing more businesses to be built on DeLeon Springs’ smaller commercial lots. Currently, the regulations for separating wells and septic tanks make many of those lots economically untenable.
Additionally, Volusia County is offering an incentive to homeowners who live in the priority focus area around the spring who want to convert to updated septic systems — $10,000 is up for grabs, payable directly to a licensed septic tank contractor, to offset the cost.
A town hall-style meeting was held Oct. 5 by the DeLeon Springs Community Association to help residents navigate the impact of the law, how to apply for the grant, and the confusing array of lengthy acronyms water experts casually scatter into ordinary conversation. Below are answers to some of the residents’ most burning questions.
What you need to know
How long before the older septic systems must be ditched completely, under the law?
How much is this really going to cost?
Every home is different, septic operators say, but the majority of the cost will be covered by the grant.
Do I have to upgrade my system?
New systems are required for all new construction under 1 acre, a requirement that went into effect in July of this year. New systems are not required if a conventional system needs servicing. But, the rebate money is up for grabs now for DeLeon Springs residents in the PFA, and looking to the long term, sooner or later (20 years from now to be exact), new systems will be mandated.
Will DeLeon Springs residents have to connect to the new sewer line?
There’s no money for new lines to be constructed off of the commercial district in DeLeon Springs, according to Mike Ulrich, Volusia County’s director of water utilities.
Why all the focus on septic, when agricultural runoff is the main source of runoff?
First, every community is different — DeLeon Springs has a higher amount of nitrogen from agricultural sources (52 percent of the total nitrogen load). Comparatively, Orange City has around 55 percent from septic.
The amount of nitrogen from septic in DeLeon Springs is still high enough to trigger the state regulations.
Unlike septic systems, agricultural runoff is regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, not the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the spring action plans.
Why is Volusia County picking on people who live on under 1 acre?
The State of Florida, not Volusia County, set the standards. The general reasoning is that standards apply to higher-density areas that concentrate nitrogen loads.
How often should a septic system be serviced?
It depends on the type of system, and the load (pun intended) of waste it deals with. A solitary snowbird with a Florida home, for instance, may not need to ever service their conventional system. But in a home with four or five people, all the flushing and laundry days start to add up. In the latter case, a conventional septic system should be serviced every four years or so.
The new systems can require more maintenance depending on the type — an aerobic system uses natural processes to break down the nutrients via bacteria. To ensure the health of the bacteria, the system should be serviced more often (and using traditional cleaning supplies, like bleach, can kill the bacteria). INRBs (inground nitrogen reducing biofilters) require very little maintenance because they’re an installed layer underneath a septic drainfield.
Why do I care about this?
Nearly everyone in West Volusia lives close to a major Florida spring. Although there are designated management areas specifically around those springs, the water system in Florida is interconnected everywhere.
If action isn’t taken, the springs could become overloaded with nutrients, causing fish kills, algae blooms, and other die-offs of flora and fauna. And nobody wants
For more information, visit Volusia County’s septic upgrade program portal at: forwardplatform.com/volusia-county-septic-grant-program.