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Environmental group helps residents with Vero Beach's septic to sewer conversion

Scientists blame septic systems for pollution in the central part of the Indian River Lagoon
Posted at 7:54 PM, Mar 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-11 20:10:53-04

VERO BEACH, Fla. — A group of environmentalists and public officials in Vero Beach pose for pictures in front of a truck that empties septic tanks.

However, the real activity is behind Blane Stenvik’s home. Crews removed a septic tank from Stenvik's backyard and will hook his house up to the city sewer system.

“We just want to do our part for it,” Stenvik said. He added this is just one small piece of the efforts to reduce human waste leaking into the Indian River Lagoon.

“It needs to be cleaned up for us to have a healthy environment to live in without the stink and the fish kills,” Stenvik said.

Blane Stenvik Vero Beah septic sewer 03112024.png
Blane Stenvik talks about the benefits of converting to from septic to sewer.

WPTV investigative reporter Dave Bohman showed in 2022 how there were high levels of sewage pollution in the Lagoon near Vero Beach.

The water is dark brown, and in the shallows, there’s no longer seagrass: the main food source for manatees.

Research from Florida Atlantic University Dr. Brian Lapointe showed human wasted from septic tanks is the primary pollutant.

"The problem in Florida is conventional septic systems just don't work,” Lapointe said. “They just do not remove the contaminants."


Sewage from septic systems could be contributing to lagoon pollution

Dave Bohman
6:27 PM, Aug 18, 2022

Right now, the Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County has given 10 homeowners in Vero Beach zero interest loans to hook up to the city sewer system.

The group wants to add another 15 homeowners living near the lagoon or canals that feed it.

“To save the lagoon,” said Keith Drewitt of the Clean Water Coalition. “To improve the lagoon water quality, getting septic tanks connected to city sewers is a big deal.”

Its a big deal for environmentalists.

Keith Drewitt of the Clean Water Coalition 03112024.png
Keith Drewitt of the Clean Water Coalition talks about how the initiative is saving the lagoon.

For Stenvik, a zero-interest loan that allows him to make yearly payments to hook up to city sewer system, instead of having to pay $15,000 right away.

“And it helps us spread out the payments over several years, so it’s not going to be something that I have to handle right now,” Stenvik said.

Vero Beach is making progress in getting more homeowners to ditch their septic tanks and hook up to the city sewer.

When WPTV investigated the issue nearly two years ago, the city said 36% of homeowners were on the city sewer line.

Today, that number is now 47%.