Keep calm and put your thinking cap on: Septic Tank Eve. Let’s be environmentally creative.

Keep calm and put your thinking cap on: Septic Tank Eve. Let’s be environmentally creative.

As you all know we are invited to the chambers of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday Nov 3 to hear about this subject from Dr Brian Lapointe.

So a few things before.

I did a search of TC and did not come up with one page that had any kind of education. I did the same search with Martin County Commissioners and came up with the same thing. This has been an issue for a long time and we’ve now gone to living life as usual to mandatory sewage.

This was the latest from TC Palm

http://www.tcpalm.com/news/indian-river-lagoon/health/investigation-move-over-fertilizer-septic-tank-drainage-also-contaminating-indian-river-lagoon-ep-37-332670631.html

“Despite growing evidence that septic tanks play a role in the lagoon’s degradation, most elected leaders are hesitant to tackle this part of the problem, largely because many property owners oppose increased septic regulations, a Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers investigation found.

Some scientists and regulatory agencies point to fertilizers as the main source of the nutrient runoff generating heavy algae in the lagoon. But Harbor Branch professor Brian LaPointe believes sewage carries more of the nutrients spurring algae growth.”

He has said this before in many situations. He could be right and he could be wrong but I’m not understanding a few things.”

Why did Martin County Commission go from white to black (or brown I guess) overnight? What happened?

“It’s really unclear how much fertilizer is reaching the lagoon,” LaPointe said. “But one septic tank on 4 acres — that’s enough to create a nutrient problem.”

Algal blooms block sunlight that sea grass needs to thrive. As the algae decompose, they deplete oxygen, which can suffocate sea grass and fish, turning clear, biodiverse waters into a murky dead zone.”

So this is when I say really are you kidding me?

Because we all  know we do not get algae blooms unless we are having discharges.

DSC_0038 DSC_0032 DSC_0031

And why all of sudden is the newspaper so eager to be the mouth piece of Dr Brian Lapointe?

There are a lot of septic tanks. We have the least in Martin County.

“Indian River County: 37,000, roughly half issued before 1983. Of the 900 systems on the barrier island — where they’re more likely to be near waterways — 747 are more than 30 years old

St. Lucie County: 45,000, about 18,000 date back before 1983

Martin County: 40,000, officials didn’t know how many predate 1983″

There are about 120,000 septic systems on the Treasure Coast, the newspaper investigation found. As many as half were installed before stricter regulations were enacted in 1983, making them more likely to drain sewage into groundwater that ends up in the lagoon, according to data from the counties and Harbor Branch.”

But there is so more much! All the stuff that comes from Lake Okeechobee that destroys us with changing the salinity of water. Killing our oysters. Killing the seagrass.

I got some great responses from my friends all who have really good points. Actually better points than Dr Lapointe who only answer is costly septic. Dr Lapointe in fact in all this time has never suggested any kind of education and in fact his remark about paying to live in Paradise went to the hearts of many citizens of Martin County.

My friend Robert said:

‪‬” I frequently find myself in complete agreement with you on environmental issues. This is not one. The problem with septic tanks is that they do work when used mindfully by people who have them properly pumped out and regularly inspected. But that’s the ideal, not the typical situation at all.

Poorly maintained and carelessly used septic systems are a major source of freshwater contamination. The problem is not limited to trailer parks and older homes either. It is a problem that is underground. Out of sight, out of mind. Not at the very least rejecting new building permits where municipal sewer connection is not part of the plan should be sop for all approvals. There should be no, I repeat, zero, variance for rural areas. We are not actually running out of water, we are running out drinkable water. All other issues should be treated with the same standard. Best practices in all sectors, housing, industry, agriculture and anything else contributing to the pollution in our water, soil and air. Now, not in twenty years.”

Actually i think we agree. We have different roads to get there.

He has point. But the point brings me back to what is the best way to manage these? Pump out is an issue and many people can’t afford it. Many people live on 800-1000 bucks a month and 200 dollars for a pump out means they do not eat. That’s not counting  the BS you get when these guys show up trying to get you to spend a fortune. Just pump out my tank please.

See the issue is when you slice open a nasty wound pus usually comes out. This is the unwanted pus.

Where is the education on how to maintain the septics?

Strangely enough there is a Martin County in Minnesota and they did just that.

http://www.co.martin.mn.us/index.php/septic-systems

They have a septic system owners guide from the University of Minnesota.

http://septic.umn.edu/owners/index.htm

and you can own it for 5 bucks.

Cool Beans.

So, maybe while we’re waiting to hash all this out this answer to the question is not lawsuits to inspect but actually voluntarily helping the citizens of Martin County maintain their septics. Why does everything have to end up in court?  Why can’t we just ask people to do this right thing? Why is this such a fight?  Creating mandatory anything will just create more angst for our citizens who have enough angst already. Do we need anymore angst. I say no.

It’s very likely there was a lot of BS which is why Joe Negron did what he did the first place.

I did see this from Commissioner Haddix.

john haddox

So this is good. We can start having a conversation.

Here are some other remarks that need to be considered.

‪Mark said: I think septic tank inspections and needed repair should be required by law. This would solve part of the problem quickly. Functioning septic systems in proper locations are not a problem, actual groundwater monitoring studies by FIT prove this. I believe Lapointe is looking at nitrogen isotopes. Hooking functioning septic systems to municipal sewage treatment creates other problems such as aquifer injection, a good way to ruin an underground water supply, and many municipal sewage pipes leak into the groundwater.

Another good point.

‪Douglas said this: ‬ Since our county has not stood up to Big Sugar I am suspect that the recent Septic Tank issue is centered around kicking the can down the road because they will not stand up and force the water south and they have taken the opportunity to turn Septic Tank effluent into a business. Expect Martin County to get into the Septic Tank Business on steroids. This will force people to comply with and hook up causing thousands of dollars of cost to the home owner. Jupiter has forced people to hook up when they had a perfectly functioning septic field at a cost of $10,000. (approx)

It’s complicated and because it affects a lot of citizens, our lagoon, our St Lucie River it deserves a conversation with more than one expert. I know a lot of researchers from over the years. It all depends on who is supporting your research.

In the last week I did hear from people who want to install some kind of cool compostable system like this.

They were denied.

http://www.composting-toilet-store.com/Septic_System_Alternatives_s/69.htm

I’d have to do some research but I love the idea of getting creative to at least put a dent in the issue voluntarily.

Lets do this. Let’s do some research on those cool enzymes and see what we can come up with product wise.

Martin Commissioners maybe you can figure out a way we can pump the poop from tanks if people can’t afford this so while we’re talking about this we’re making the world a better place. It doesn’t matter where the blame lies. What matters is we come up with creative solutions as citizens. This has been an issue for a long time. Let’s do something about it.

Here is the info for Tuesday again. Hope to see you all there.

Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce, will talk about his team’s study on the impact of septic systems on the St. Lucie River estuary and nearshore reefs.

What: Martin County Commission meeting

When: 9 a.m. Nov. 3

Where: Commission Chambers, 2401 S.E. Monterey Road, Stuart

Information: www.martin.fl.us

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On the Snout : Septic Tanks , Martin County, Stupid Headlines.

on the snout

On the Snout: Septic Tanks and Martin County

When I first moved here I lived in my house for about nine months before I bought it. I love my house. I wanted to live in an older house near the Indian River Lagoon on the same land the AIS Indians lived on thousand of years ago. Ancient sand dunes.

Sacred land.

An incredible lagoon. With flying fish. Dolphins that live here and grace us. Water that I swam in. I bought a Kayak.

I chose this house by myself with the help of local real estate person. She never told me that there were discharges that would come and destroy my life and make it impossible to take my family to the water which is why I moved here in the first place.

When I purchased my house I called the water department to get my water hooked up. I was told who ever lived here never paid some assessment and it would cost me 2500 dollars to hook up. Then I found out I would have to pay thousands of dollars to bring the plumbing to the street where the water hook up. The nasty guy on the other end of the phone told me I could put it on my credit card when I asked if I could pay it off at a hundred dollars a month. The whole thing would have been paid off long ago.

He did me a favor.

I love my well. I have a great well guy that keeps it going and I have great water. So I’m keeping the well along with my money.

But having to deal with Martin County makes me very nervous.

This situation to me is no different from the Bear Hunt we just had. There is no in-between and no consideration for the people who live here. Let me just throw this headline at you!

I’m not opposed to sewage hook up but when the issue of our septic tanks came up  I did a lot research and I called my brother in law who builds green houses in Colorado.  These places have all kinds of poop disposing systems.  I asked him a bunch of questions and he told to be kind to my septic and it will be kind to me.  Nothing goes down there unless it came of out me or in the case of the washing machine and dishwasher I use all those eco products that you buy at the health food store and enzymes.  I had one issue once when i was out of town and the pump on my well went and I had a flood.

As I go around I simply cannot believe the things that people put down into their septic tank. Kitty litter (why not just put it in a bag), Food from the disposal (again why would you do that ?) all kind of chemicals , medications. It reminds me of the things I used to see working in the er. “You put what where? No kidding!” “Where did you put the penny?” “Oh up my nose.”

When I tell my patients all these things are really not a good idea they are responsive. Many of them simply have not thought it through. They are thankful. It’s so easy to be kind and educate people.

So instead of writing a headline that says this  TC Palm:
Research: Septic systems ‘primary’ source of river, reef pollution
Write something about educating people on what they need to do for their septic tanks.

When I moved here before the discharges the water was awesome.

This was June 2013

DSC_0014

This was August 2013 after the discharges

IMG_12740653543585

toxic green algae photo credit Lorena Cedeño Teal

I understand the hot spots of old palm city and golden gate. I have smelled the stuff from the north fork and its brutal. Why is PSL not doing anything about that? Why is their poop our poop? Why are they not educating their citizens on how to deal with their septic systems. Why?

But at the same time that we are being vilified houses are being built with septic. The septic has been extended so builders can build more houses. Houses in Rio on the old Frances Langford property have been approved. They will all have septic because the sewage doesn’t go up that far. How does this make any sense?

When I drive up Indian River Drive all kinds of houses are being built.

The subject of septic tanks come up frequently because of our lagoon. There are indeed spots are filled with bad things that probably come from septic and the same time you have Ocean Breeze adding all kinds of new units? Where is their sewage going? What about the new houses that are going to built in Rio near Palmer? What is that awful smell when you drive up Indian River Drive and your across from the Power Plant? It smells like dead fish.

The other thing is many millions have been spent so developers can develop. Like the sewage half way thru Rio so this guy can build his monstrosity but the rest of us  get screwed. The circle with the plants that endlessly have to be maintained.

Martin County hired Dr Brian Lapointe to do this study. He has done others and has always come to the same conclusions.

It’s the poop!

Vero Beach

http://www.veronews.com/news/sebastian/government/lagoon-crisis-likely-caused-by-septic-tanks-says-expert/article_cf70128e-7eb1-11e3-b94a-001a4bcf6878.html

Brevard

http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20130630/NEWS01/306300039/Septic-tanks-suspected-Indian-River-Lagoon-s-algae-woes

Loxahatchee

http://www.loxahatcheeriver.org/pdf/2010%20Final%20Report-Complete-Edited.pdf

American Planning Association Meeting

http://www.floridaplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Sewage-Pollution-Eutrophication-in-Floridas-Coastal-Waters-Brian-Lapointe.pdf

So here is the article from the TC Palm:

http://www.tcpalm.com/franchise/indian-river-lagoon/health/research-septic-systems-primary-source-of-river-reef-pollution_19606724

There are more but you get the pictures.

That’s why this blog is literally on the snout!

I hate to even post because I can’t post the whole thing and you have to be a subscriber to see the rest. It’s pains me but I think this is one of the reason we can’t widen our circle of friends is because we can’t share articles. (as opposed to kicking butt with the Bear Hunt and the endless shareable article and blogs)

Research: Septic systems ‘primary’ source of river, reef pollution

is the title. Is this what we can expect from the TC Palm from now on?  Really? This headline is straight out of the Sunshine State News. Ex Editor Nancy Smith would be proud.

The huge plumes from the discharges from Lake Okeechobee have nothing to do with this?

Nothing?

Please see before and after photos above.

This headline sounds like its funded by Big Sugar.  ( who btw was running some very expensive ads a little while back)

“Septic systems are a primary source of St. Lucie River pollution, according to a soon-to-be-released study Martin County-commissioned from the Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

The finding refutes an opinion popular with some local officials and environmentalists that Lake Okeechobee discharges and fertilizer in agricultural runoff are the primary sources.

“We’re not saying there are no pollutants from (agriculture); there are,” said Brian Lapointe, a Harbor Branch research professor and study team leader. “But sewage from septic tanks is a significant contributor, in fact a primary contributor, to nutrients damaging the estuary and the reefs offshore.”

There is a lot of science in his study that need to be gone thru.

““We confirmed that the areas with a high concentration of septic systems had nitrates and phosphates in the groundwater and in the ditches leading to the St. Lucie,” Lapointe said. “Then we found that sewage is getting into the estuary and being taken by tides out to the reefs, where it’s causing a chain reaction that’s literally killing the reefs.”

How he managed to do this when we are continually get discharges from Lake Okeechobee baffles me.

Hey if that’s the case just open up the gates and let it all out!

But they can’t. Because it’s not that simple.

Maggy Hurchalla sent this out in an email sent out this morning.

“No one I know ever questioned the fact that septic systems are polluting the river.
That’s why we amended the comp plan to put our strong local restrictions back into ch 10.
The pro-development commissioners took them out in 2009 and announced that the minimum state rules were enough.

Those state rules are totally inadequate. They allow new subdivisions to have 5 septic systems per acre. They allow new apartments and condos to use septic systems. They allow super sized systems of 10,000 gpd.

The Commission adopted the amendment to the Sewer chapter of the comp plan almost a year ago. It’s still being challenged by developers. The judge ruled in the county’s favor. It is now waiting for a final opinion. Doug Smith and John Haddox voted against it. They were joined by ex-mayor Sasser from Pahokee and the One Florida group and the King Ranch and other AG interest.

The arguments against the amendment included;
– It was unfair to limit septic in new developments until all existing septic systems had been hooked up to sewer. They seemed to think you shouldn’t close the barn door until all the horses that got out earlier were caught.
– the amendment was not about helping the river. It was created by an environmental extremist (me) to stop growth.
– big agricultural septic systems don’t pollute.

Martin County has fewer septic systems than any other county on the Lagoon because we had strict rules for new development from 1982 to 2009.

That is not an excuse for doing nothing. We know that areas of high density and high water tables and old septic systems are causing problems. They don’t have to be waterfront to cause problems  if their drainage ditch goes to the river.

Sasser went so far as to suggest that Lake O discharges were a problem only because out septic effluent flowed back into the Lake and then back to the river.
That kind of dumb doesn’t need an answer.

(me hahahaha funny)

The study does not show that septic systems are a bigger problem than Lake discharges.
It does not show they are the only problem.
It does not show that they are a worse problem in Martin than in other counties. The North Fork has a big problem coming down from Port St. Lucie.

The study does show that we have stuff  in the water coming from septic tanks. We knew that. Now we know it for sure.

Sewering the whole county all at once is not a good solution.
Setting up a funding source and connecting up the top priority areas first  is a good solution.
CRA funds could be used to help subsidize hookups in Old Palm City and in Golden Gate.”

Thank You Maggy for reaching out to me!  See if I can live with this! Why because its a fair assessment of the situation. It’s grounded in Maggy logic.

Charles Grande, Former PSL Commish said this.

“How sad the headline implies septics are “The” source as opposed to one of several, and certainly not The big one. Without Lake O discharges, the other sources make it tough on our waterways but, we can address those problems locally, over time, and the waterways will survive. When they dump the Lake on us, our water ways are impacted beyond our ability to respond and living things (plants, animals, and people) die. Everyone should read Maggy’s response stressing “The study does not show that septic systems are a bigger problem than Lake discharges” and “The study does not show they are the only problem?”

Thank you Charles.

Kevin Stinette, former Indian Riverkeeper said this:

It bothers me to see “Septic systems are a primary source of St. Lucie River pollution, …” and then, “The finding refutes an opinion popular with some local officials and environmentalists that Lake Okeechobee discharges and fertilizer in agricultural runoff are the primary sources.”
All are primary sources.
Taking sides and contending that one or justifies the other makes no sense. Our estuary needs to go on a nitrogen diet. We need to stem the flow of nitrogen wherever we can. Stormwater runoff, discharges from canals and septic tank sources all put more nitrogen into the water than the system can handle.
It is hard to argue against Dr. Lapointe’s assertion that, “… sewage from septic tanks is a significant contributor, in fact a primary contributor, to nutrients damaging the estuary and the reefs offshore.”
Why argue over whether either source is “a” contributor or “the” contributor? Big sugar loves to foster such arguments, as though they are justified in having hijacked our water treatment systems south of the lake because coastal residents have septic tanks. People who don’t want any constraints on pollution love to join in arguing that we shouldn’t have to clean up after ourselves because agricultural discharges are so obviously destructive in the rainy years.
Hooking up to municipal sewers only injects the waste deeper into our aquifer where it will eventually migrate into our waters.
While we make the transition to sewers, there are solutions short of $11K hookups. Why don’t we consider grey water systems to use water from washing machines to water lawns? Other water conservation measures would limit the mix of grey water in septic tanks give the bacteria more time to digest nutrients and slow the migration of nitrogen toward our waters. Maximizing vegetation between septic tanks and canals and rivers could turn the nitrogen into trees and shrubs and assist in sequestering carbon dioxide.
We need to confront nutrient pollution on all fronts, not square off to argue about who is doing the most damage.”

So as we can all see the situation is complicated. Do we have a septic issue? Yes DO we have Discharge issue? Yes DO we have a nitrogen problem? Yes Do we have very knowledgeable people that disagree? Yes

There are a lot of issues.

The last one I want to address is this quote from Dr Lapointe.

“The utility department would pay 30 percent of the cost; property owners would pay 70 percent, about $11,750 per parcel.

“The fix is expensive,” Lapointe said, “but living in paradise ain’t cheap.”

Pretty cavalier! Apparently he does not know that in June 2012 (I’m not sure what the numbers are now)

More than 27 percent of kids on Treasure Coast going hungry

There are people in this county that are old, disabled and get 15 dollars a month for food stamps. That’s if they are lucky.

I’m sure they will be able to come with that 11,750. Maybe we could set up GOFUNDMESEPTIC HOOKUP SITES!

There’s so much more to discuss but that’s for another day. Please me join me at this meeting.

I think there are some places that need to be hooked up and we have to figure out a way to do that. But I also think there is a lot of education that needs to go on so lets all put our thinking caps on. And please lets stop making grand headlines when they are not quite true or right for the people that live here.

thinking caps

Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce, will talk about his team’s study on the impact of septic systems on the St. Lucie River estuary and nearshore reefs.

What: Martin County Commission meeting

When: 9 a.m. Nov. 3

Where: Commission Chambers, 2401 S.E. Monterey Road, Stuart

Information: www.martin.fl.us