The Leon County Commission accepted two Florida Department of Environmental Protection Springs Restoration (FDEP) grants totaling $4.5 million to move Northeast Lake Munson, Belair, and Annawood neighborhoods from septic systems to the City of Tallahassee’s central sewer.
Charles Wu, the Director of Leon County Engineering Services, said the project will benefit both Leon and Wakulla counties.
“Although both projects are in Leon County, the improvement of all quality through the septic tank retrofit is the central sewer program,” Wu said. “It will help improve water quality and benefit Wakulla County, especially Wakulla Springs.”
According to the Northwest Water Management District, the overall health and water quality of Wakulla Springs and the Upper Wakulla River has declined over several decades. The degradation is caused by an excess of nitrates in the water.
Theresa Heiker, Leon County Stormwater Management Coordinator, said the ground water is a main concern.
“Wakulla springs is affected by the nitrogen in the wastewater. It’s associated with the septic tanks because the City of Tallahassee wastewater treatment plant did a major upgrade a few years ago that substantially improved their treatment,” Heiker said.
She also mentioned that the city’s attempt to reduce the nitrogen is still underway.
“We saw a tremendous improvement in Wakulla Springs for that level, but there’s still not quite close enough to the level it needs to be healthy, based on the numbers identified by the State of Florida. There’s a goal of .35 milligrams per liter in the Spring, and we are averaging .4 milligrams per liter. As you can see we’re close but not quite there.”
Local neighborhoods in Leon County use septic tanks because the county does not have a designated water treatment facility. Therefore, the need to upgrade the septic tanks into central sewer systems is important.
After connecting to the City of Tallahassee’s central sewer system, the water will be able to get high level treatments at the water facility treatment off of Springhill road and Capitol Circle. High level treatments will be provided for all systems collected in the Northeast Lake Munson, Belair, and Annawood areas.
The septic to sewer projects grant is expected to address 376 septic tanks. This will allow the county to reach 75 percent of its goal to upgrade or eliminate 500 septic tanks in the primary springs protection zone by 2021.
Bill Proctor, a Leon County Commissioner, said he recalls a conversation with a local resident about the county’s future plans.
“The other day I was visiting a friend and this man came up to me and asked, ‘When ya’ll gonna bring a sewer to Woodville? I’ve been on the lookout.’ I said it is coming soon, and I’m glad we are finally able to help improve the water quality for our residents and bring the county up to par.”
The $4.5 million grant comes from capital reserve funds that are paid back from Leon County’s Blueprint 2020 Water Quality and Stormwater Improvement project.