VENICE — It’s not just your septic tank, if you have one, that’s going to come under scrutiny in the coming year.

A panel of county leaders pointed out the myriad of projects and efforts underway to address red tide and blue-green algae at a Friday luncheon hosted by The Argus Foundation, a non-partisan business leadership organization, and the South County Tiger Bay Club.

It all comes down to removing nitrogen from area waterways and the groundwater.

“Many county residents don’t fully understand all that the county is doing for our water quality,” said Christine Robinson of The Argus Foundation. “Especially when it comes to the Dona Bay Restoration project.”

The $25 million project, about halfway completed, is an important regional eco-restoration project, said Chuck Walter, with Sarasota County Public Works.

The problem, he said, isn’t that Cow Pen Slough — that drains into Dona Bay — isn’t clean. It’s that there’s too much fresh water making it’s way into the bay.

“An oyster likes 38 days of fresh water (annually),” Walter said. “It dies after 40 days, and oysters are an important part of the filtration system” that removes nitrogen, which feeds red tide and blue-green algae.

Reservoir comingWhat to do with the extra water? The county already purchased an orange grove that’s now being dug out as a reservoir to handle excess water flow.

The plan is to connect that reservoir to the old Venice Minerals Mine off Knights Trail Road to form a larger reservoir and turn the area into a recreational destination north of Venetian Golf & River Club.

Some of the water could possibly be stored underground in an aquifer storage and recovery well. Some will go back into the Myakka River — heading back toward North Port and Englewood.

Hopefully some will be used for the potable water supply, Walter said.

It’s the largest county restoration project in the state, covering a 2,500-acre watershed, aside from mega projects like Everglades restoration. Within two years the North Venice area will see the reservoir under construction, Walter predicted.

Overlay districtsOn the horizon, said the experts, could be adopting new Environmental Overlay Districts, like the one being studied in North Port. Areas closest to critical water supplies would require higher water quality standards, like using only the safest fertilizers, no septic tanks, and enhanced filtration methods.

All of these efforts cost money.

The new buzzword in county circles, said Walter, is “pollutant trading.”

“Where is the best investment for reduction of nutrients? We will be looking at that in the future,” he said.

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