Septic-to-sewer conversion program approved by Marion County Commission
Program to use ARPA funds to convert areas from septic systems to sewers to help protect natural water resources.
Workers with Brown’s Septic Tank Services, lift up the lid on a septic tank as they prepare to pump it out at a home on Water Trak in Silver Springs Shores on July 22, 2020. The home had a septic system that was backed up and nearly overflowed into the house. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.
To reduce the contamination to its aquifer and waterways, Marion County is implementing a septic-to-sewer conversion program, which was recently approved by the Marion County Board of County Commissioners (MCBOCC) on April 19.
The MCBOCC approved an ordinance that establishes a procedure by which certain designated areas with existing septic systems would be converted to sewer in order to help reduce pollution in the aquifer, which feeds Marion County’s water resources and provides drinking water, according to an April 20 press release.
“The number one issue facing Marion County from a citizen’s standpoint is preservation of our natural resources,” Commissioner Craig Curry said on April 19. “Whatever goes down your septic tank is out of sight, out of mind—but the truth is it’s damaging our springs, and this program is a fix for that.”
Mandatory connections to the Marion County Utilities central sewer system will be designated as “program areas” in unincorporated Marion County through a resolution by the board, according to Stacie Causey, senior public relations specialist for the county.
According to the thirteenth definition (section 1(c)(13)) of the executed county ordinance, unincorporated Marion County service areas are geographic locations in which Marion County provides utility services. Therefore, this ordinance’s service area does not include Marion County’s municipalities: Belleview, Dunnellon and Ocala.
The county defines “program areas” as areas “where owners of improved properties will have grant funding provided to cover the cost of such connection within the allotted time.”
The ordinance requires that the county provide guidelines for notifying property owners:
• First notification should be no less than 365 days prior to anticipated availability date
• Second notification should be no less than 90 days prior to anticipated availability date
• Final notification when service is available.
Once sewer service is available, property owners would then have 365 days from the availability date to make the conversion in accordance with Florida Statute Section 381.00655.
Benefits to connecting, according to the county, include reduction of contamination to the aquifer and waterways, elimination of septic tank maintenance for the homeowner, as well as quality installation by Marion County approved contractors.
The county is currently planning to spend a significant portion of the $72 million in American Rescue Act Plan funds allotted to Marion County on septic-to-sewer conversions in the Silver Springs Shores community.
“I didn’t think we would ever be able to see the day where we would have the money for something like this,” said Commissioner Kathy Bryant on April 19. “We’re taking that money and using it in the best way possible to go out and fix something that’s been broken for a long time.”
Grant funding will be available to cover all initial costs to property owners as long as they make the connection within the allotted time frame.
Once the conversion is complete, homeowners will be responsible for a monthly service charge to cover ongoing costs for system operation, but will no longer have to worry about septic tank maintenance, cleaning or replacement costs.
Marion County anticipates investing approximately $30,000 per household in areas where septic-to-sewer conversions are planned, according to county officials, and these conversions will help preserve the aquifer and other water resources for years to come.
For more information or to stay up to date on program areas, visit marionfl.org.