JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council Social Justice and Community Investment Committee learned Monday that one of three neighborhoods slated to have septic tanks replaced with city sewers may face a significant delay because of funding.
The septic tank phaseout program was designed to address the detrimental effects that septic tanks have on the environment.
The Biltmore community and the Beverly Hills neighborhood both are on schedule to have septic tanks replaced, but according to city officials, the funding hasn’t been fully secured for the third planned neighborhood -- Christobel off Moncrief Road.
“It’s not just putting a line in, it is totally reconstructing and installing infrastructure to accommodate sewer. It is also, as I mentioned, reconstructing the roads throughout," said John Pappas, director of the city’s Department of Public Works.
Pappas said Jacksonville’s septic tank phaseout program will make considerable upgrades to the communities that have been waiting for decades for a service that many other people take for granted. Jacksonville is trying to make good on a broken promise made in 1968 during consolidation. The city agreed to improve drainage and sewer systems in older neighborhoods as it expanded the city boundaries to go all the way out to the beaches. But to this day, more than 65,000 Jacksonville residents still depend on septic tanks, which have harmful effects on the local tributaries.
“What’s important to understand is the area, this is groundwater, so the leeching of the material makes its way through our groundwater and ultimately into wetland systems,” Pappas said.
Septic tank replacement should be complete sometime next year in the Biltmore and Beverly Hills neighborhoods, which combined have more than 1,000 septic tanks to be removed and replaced.
For that project, $45 million has been set aside.
But the city said that so far, it’s costing more than anticipated -- so the money could run out, leaving the Christobel community’s septic tank removal as a question mark.
″Quite frankly, we are waiting to move forward with on the outreach to initiate that one," Pappas said. “This project, we are waiting to see what our bids come in to see if we have adequate funding to move forward.”
Pappas told City Council members the average cost per home to replace a septic tank with city sewer services is $40,000 to $50,000.
″We don’t want to move it forward until we know we have adequate funding to move it forward through construction," Pappas said.
News4Jax spoke with City Councilman Matt Carlucci by phone about finding other revenue sources for the septic tank phaseout project. He said the city may consider raising the stormwater runoff fee, using the city’s bond money or perhaps even using some of the money slated for the reconstruction of Lot J, which would require a council vote.