We are in the process of developing scenarios to address the nutrient loads in both Rainbow and Silver springsheds that will best fit our community while meeting state legislative mandates and regulatory requirements. We need your input. In the next few weeks, we will be holding public meetings to gain input from the stakeholders, particularly those in the impacted areas, and provide more information on the state legislative mandates and regulatory requirements.
Contractors: Learn more about the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's septic upgrade incentive program with up to $10,000 incentives per installation of enhanced nitrogen-reducing features to existing septic systems.
Marion County is home to some of the most beautiful springs in the world and the county has taken great strides to protect these natural wonders. In 2009, the county adopted one of the first springs protection ordinances in the state. Our local springs protection program includes special standards and policies for residential and commercial development, aimed at protecting water quality in areas that have the highest potential to affect our springs.
At the federal level, the Clean Water Act is the primary law that addresses water pollution. The law requires that state environmental agencies complete total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for waterbodies that are determined to be chemically or biologically "impaired." In Florida, this authority is delegated to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
Over the past several years, the Florida Legislature has been aggressive in requiring the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to develop a scientific-based framework to address the degradation of our state's Outstanding Florida Springs. In 2016, the Florida Legislature created the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, which identified 33 Outstanding Florida Springs that require additional protections to ensure their conservation and restoration for future generations. Two of these outstanding Florida springs are in Marion County Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs. The scientific framework and detailed strategies to improve water quality are described in basin management action plans (BMAPs), which provide a road map for springs restoration.
The TMDL for Silver and Rainbow springs identified the main sources of nutrients entering our springs, including agriculture, urban fertilizers and septic systems as major contributors. Strategies identified in the BMAP for Silver and Rainbow Springs are aimed at reducing nitrogen from each of these sources. Agricultural operations are required to enroll in best management practices; the county and municipalities have adopted regulations to improve urban fertilizer practices and the BMAP includes an onsite sewage treatment and disposal system (OSTDS, also known as septic tanks) remediation plan to reduce nitrogen loads from domestic wastewater. This is particularly relevant in Marion County, where almost 90,000 homes use septic systems.
The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act requires an OSTDS remediation plan where the loads from septic systems have been determined to be more than 20 percent of the nutrient load. Both the Silver and Rainbow springs systems meet or exceed this 20 percent threshold and FDEP has provided Marion County a grant to implement the OSTDS remediation plans for these systems. The state statutes require that OSTDS remediation plans contain the following elements.
- An evaluation of credible scientific information on the effect of nutrients, particularly forms of nitrogen, on springs and spring systems.
- Options for repair, upgrade, replacement, drain field modification, the addition of effective nitrogen-reducing features, connection to a central sewer system, or other action.
- A public education plan to provide area residents with reliable, understandable information about OSTDS and springs.
- Cost-effective and financially feasible projects necessary to reduce the nutrient impacts from OSTDS.
- A priority ranking for each project for funding contingent on appropriations in the General Appropriations Act.
We are in the process of developing scenarios to address the nutrient loads in both Rainbow and Silver springs springsheds that will best fit our community and meet the state legislative mandates and regulatory requirements.
We need your input. In the next few weeks, we will be holding public meetings to gain input from the stakeholders, particularly those in the impacted areas, and provide you with more information on the requirements of the state legislation.