Septic to city system hot topic in North Port, Tuesday's meeting part of phased plan

North Port remains a town dependent largely on septic fields for wastewater.

NORTH PORT — Just as Florida begins regulating septic wastewater systems, North Port will outline the first phase of the conversion of septic tanks to city water and sewer lines.

Commissioners, during their April 27 meeting, will discuss plans to convert one of 29 or so “sewer shed” districts to a city operated system.

Those neighborhoods within the South Salford-Blue Ridge district are about 60% built out and are within easier reach of existing city pipes, lift stations and other devices that move wastewater to a treatment plant on Pan American Boulevard.

North Port has set aside cash for design and engineering phases, but also expects windfalls from COVID-19 relief packages to help pay for construction.

The city is also using some revenue from a 1 cent surtax. The first phase is part of an overall water and sewer hookup estimated at some $900 million, said Mike Acosta, the city’s Utilities Engineering Division manager.

Getting the entire city connected to water and sewer lines, however, is years down the road, as North Port has nearly 45,000 un-sewered parcels; there are 11,100 parcels hooked to the system. Those with newer septic systems are included in conversion plans as well.

“Not a cheap date,” Acosta said of projected completion costs.

Since announcing phased septic and freshwater plans, however, some homeowners staged weekly opposition rallies and pushed their messages on social media platforms.

Individual home hook-ups could cost between $20,000-$30,000, which is why some are upset. North Port would offer long-term hook-up payment plans, even interest-free, and seek financial assistance options.

Getting North Port in compliance is part of Florida’s campaign on septic-tank regulations and lessening raw nutrients in waterways and drinking water resources.


The hammer for change is Senate Bill 712, the Clean Waterways Act, which includes changes in wastewater treatment, reuse potable water and biosolids application. It was a platform in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign — addressing water issues, particularly blue-green algae fueled by nitrogen overloads in the water, partly due to septic tanks.

State tourism, fishing, boating and related industries are all impacted by poor water quality.

North Port commissioners on Tuesday will discuss a potable reuse feasibility study, commonly called reclaimed water, as well as restoration of Warm Mineral Springs, including water and sewer lines.

The historic site has been plagued by closures related to septic-tank problems.

In addressing water and sewer, North Port is playing catch-up with Englewood, Sarasota and Charlotte County.

Jill Luke

Luke

There are septic compliance mandates in Florida’s future, North Port Mayor Jill Luke said. Ignoring such realities risks incentives to help pay or ease the costs, she added.

“Where do (you) start?” said Acosta of choosing which neighborhoods go first. “Where do you get the biggest bang for your buck?”

The North Port City Commission meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday at 4790 City Hall Blvd. Social-distancing guidelines remain in place.

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