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I-TEAM: Northside residents still on septic tanks fed up with broken promises

50 years later, people in Christobel community still on septic tanks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Northside residents living in the Christobel community say they’ve had enough of what they call “empty promises” from the city of Jacksonville.

Hundreds of people there have been waiting for decades for city sewer services to be installed in their neighborhood, and they told the News4Jax I-TEAM they want results now.

"We are truly upset because it’s been too many promises," said Christobel resident Yvonne Ward.

Ward said when Jacksonville consolidated in 1968, the city promised to put in infrastructure, like a city sewer line, in her neighborhood. To date, she and more than 500 of her neighbors still rely on septic tanks. She said they feel intentionally neglected by past and current Jacksonville administrations. 

"I would like to say to the mayor, he’s tearing down everything and putting money to rebuild the Landing. He could let that Landing sit for a while. That’s money he could take and put it into the black neighborhoods to do something better for us," Ward said.

Neighbor Corine Mcnaire agrees.

"I can remember my mother and they promised her mother and all the other people that live in this area many, many years ago that we would be getting sewage systems in this area," Mcnaire said.

The I-TEAM met with Ward and members of her church, who said in times of hurricanes and storms, their septic tanks end up flooding into their homes.

They said the lack of this basic infrastructure has also diminished their quality of life because new businesses refuse to move in.  

"Because of the areas that we are in and the way they are a built, with no sewage and drainage, I don’t think the business want to come to this area," said Christobel resident Marta Stamper. "There is no infrastructure."

According to city officials, the Christobel neighborhood is third on their list to phase out septic tanks, behind the neighborhoods of Biltmore and Beverly Hills. 

I-TEAM: JEA to phase out 358 septic tanks in Biltmore neighborhood

Right now, the phaseout program has $45 million from JEA and the city.

It costs roughly $35,000 to $45,000 per septic tank.

To phase out 1,600 tanks, JEA estimates the costs to be between $56 million and $64 million. 

City Council member Ju’Coby Pittman said residents have a legitimate complaint, but the money just isn’t there yet. 

"Unfortunately, those sites that are on the list of the cost to phase out the septic tanks, it cost a lot more than they had anticipated," Pittman said. "So, again, they are next on the list.”

Pittman doesn’t’ have a timeline as to when work could start in Christobel.

JEA reports an estimated 65,000 families living on septic tanks, so the 1,600 in the plans is just a drop in the bucket. 

The I-TEAM also reached out to the mayor's office about Ward's claim that Mayor Lenny Curry’s office is not allocating money to predominantly African American neighborhoods. The mayor's office did not comment.