ORANGE PARK – A septic-to-sewer project that will drastically increase the health of Doctors Lake by decreasing the number of algae blooms in the lake has officially begun.About 70 homeowners …
ORANGE PARK – A septic-to-sewer project that will drastically increase the health of Doctors Lake by decreasing the number of algae blooms in the lake has officially begun.
About 70 homeowners will be removed from their current septic tank systems and brought onboard to Clay County Utility Authority’s main sewage system. The project is due to be complete by the first half of 2022.
The kickoff took place on Thursday, Sept. 9, on the banks of Doctors Lake and it brought together politicians, engineers, project executives and residents to celebrate what will be happening at the Doctors Lake community.
“The genesis of all this goes back years,” said former state senator Rob Bradley and current vice-chair of the St. Johns River Water Management District Board. “CCUA, Clay County, and the district decided that one of the last big algae blooms we had was a warning sign. This is a complicated issue and there are multifaceted reasons for why this occurs.”
The septic tanks that fail to provide nutrients to the water of Doctors Lake and the greater St. Johns River create intense algae blooms. Those blooms destroy precious ecosystems. County manager Howard Wanamaker said with water being the lifeblood of Clay County, it’s critical that the water be returned to a healthier, non-bloom-filled state.
Bradley said the septic-to-sewer project is one of the big aspects in the fight against algae blooms. The new Fleming Island wastewater treatment facilities are another aspect of that, and there are plenty more projects happening to fight back against algae bloom.
Bradley, former state representative Travis Cummings, and Rep. Bobby Payne (R-Palatka) helped secure $1.5 million in state funding for the county, and about $1.2 million of it will essentially go directly to Doctors Lake residents. That’s because 70 of 77 lots on six different streets in the community will receive the funding to take them off of a septic tank system and onto CCUA’s central sewage system.
CCUA said it’s still working to get the other lots on board with the project. CCUA communications Celeste Goldberg said it’s not that the seven lots are necessarily not on board — some haven’t responded, some are on military deployment or just away, but there are some who simply don’t want to switch to sewage. One person just replaced their septic tank last year, Goldberg said, and that homeowner didn’t want the replacement to be a wasted cost.
She said in some instances, the cost allotted to each lot for the septic-to-sewer project might not be enough and in those cases, the homeowner would need to cover the rest of the cost. Goldberg is confident that cost won’t be extreme, though and manageable for those that truly want to get off of septic and onto a sewage system.
This Doctors Lake community is one of more than 100 projects around the state to protect water health. A lot of the funding stems from Senate Bill 712, otherwise known as the Clean Waterways Bill, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. That bill provided the funding that Bradley, Cummings and Payne fought for in delegation in Tallahassee. Bradley said his wife, Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island), and representative Sam Garrison (R-Fleming Island] are continuing the fight today.
“The competition for water quality money is fierce,” Garrison said. “Everyone [in Congress], Republicans and Democrats, are fighting for funding for their water and for us to get...this funding is great. When the St. Johns River is sick, Clay County is sick and that’s why this project is important.”
Construction for the project will begin on Oct. 1 and completion is tentatively set for April 2022, although with COVID-19 and other external factors, it could take longer. Project engineers say “first half of 2022” is a safe bet.
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