TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - On a beautiful Wednesday, the water under the Stuart Causeway where Barbara Ruggiere is fishing, is not so beautiful.
“It’s not good for the fishing," said Ruggiere, looking at the chocolate brown water.
On a day that could be called Chamber of Commerce weather, the Florida Chamber is talking water.
Wednesday in Tallahassee, the Chamber had Dr. Brian LaPointe from FAU’s Harbor Branch join with local lawmakers to discuss the impact of septic systems in the St. Lucie Estuary.
“Septic tanks are not designed to remove nutrients and other contaminants from wastewater," said LaPointe.
The chamber believes that switching homes from septic tanks to central sewer systems is an important step to solving the state’s water problems.
“We’re finding chemical compounds like sucralose and acetaminophen that are also flowing from these drain fields," said LaPointe.
While septic runoff is an issue when dealing with water quality, environmentalists like Mark Perry with the Florida Oceanographic Society say it's not the big part of the problem. Perry doesn't want people to lose sight of the importance of building a storage reservoir south of Lake O that could reduce future discharges.
“On an average year, we get about 1.2 million pounds of nitrogen from discharges of Lake O to the St. Lucie versus about 160-k pounds a year from just septic tank runoff," said Perry.
State Representative Gayle Harrell and State Senator Debbie Mayfield are pushing a bill that would require the state to put aside 50 million dollars for lagoon projects, including wastewater conversion.
Martin County is planning on converting 3 thousand homes from septic to sewer over the next five years. How much it would cost each homeowner in the six targeted neighborhoods is unknown right now. The entire project will cost $155-million dollars.
“Connecting septic tanks to the regional sewer system is one of the really important components of water quality improvement that we consider in the county," said county Ecosystem Manager Deborah Drum.