Nearly $37 million in grant money from the state has been awarded to Orange County in order to complete the septic-to-sewer conversion for 14 neighborhoods in the Apopka area that are located near Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Orange County also received another $4 million for a similar project in the Pine Hills area.
Both grants are from a state government program established by the federal Clean Waterways Act that will provide a total of $114 million statewide. The funds are designed to improve water quality and protect Florida’s natural water resources.
Orange County Commissioner Christine Moore said that the $36,875,000 grant will allow the county to complete the septic-to-sewer conversion for 14 neighborhoods over the next five years. Moore said that she and the county will continue to work for other grand funding and other sources of revenue for septic-to-sewer conversions for neighborhoods farther away from Wekiwa Springs State Park.
She also plans to hold two community meetings for residents of that area at Clay Springs Elementary School. The dates for the meetings have not been finalized.
Florida’s natural water resources, like Central Florida’s Wekiwa Springs, are sensitive to human activity, the county’s press release stated. High concentrations of nitrates – attributed, in part, to fertilizer runoff and septic tanks used by residential properties – are negatively impacting the water quality and ecosystem of the springs, according to the county’s press release.
The press release stated that septic tanks have been identified as the source of 29 percent of the nitrates in the springs. Retrofitting existing neighborhood septic systems to sewer is a way to aid the ailing springs by transmitting wastewater to an advanced treatment facility.
Governor Ron DeSantis made the announcement about the statewide grants on Friday, September 24,
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s wastewater grant program is set forth in state statutes, and the program prioritizes wastewater projects in basin management action plans, restoration plan areas and rural areas of opportunity and also requires at least a 50 percent match, which may be waived by DEP for rural areas of opportunity.
In June, DEP’s Protecting Florida Together Water Protection Grants portal was open for proposed project information for the wastewater grant program. The portal closed in July and submitted projects were reviewed by DEP for eligibility, nutrient reductions, project readiness, cost effectiveness, overall environmental benefit, project location, local matching funds, and water savings and water quality improvement.
The extended story begins on page 1A of the Friday, October 1, 2021, issue of The Apopka Chief.
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