JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s both anger and frustration from people living in the Christobel community on Jacksonville’s Northside after learning money that was supposed to fund their portion of the septic tank phaseout program could run out.
The director of the city’s Department of Public Works made the announcement Monday, saying the cost to phase out septic tanks in the Biltmore and Beverly Hills neighborhoods are higher than expected. He added that plans won’t move forward in the Christobel community until more money is secured.
Christobel residents told News4Jax that it all feels like a slap in the face, saying it appears the city has no problem finding money for multimillion-dollar projects like the Lot J development, but when it comes to the city’s oldest community, their health and quality of life are put on the back burner.
“What is more valuable? What is more important: the health of the community or Lot J?" said Northside resident Yah Ya Kariem. “Again, I understand the economic advantage of doing that, but what about the health issues that it may create in this area? What about the stench we have to put up with because Lot J has to be done before you put sewage in this area?”
Kariem said he’s heard enough of the excuses from city leaders about why they can’t provide his community with basic city sewer services. Kariem said recent news about the plans for Lot J is evidence that the city’s priorities are terribly out of place.
“Here we are in this community -- a Black community -- again, we’re at the bottom of the barrel again. ‘They can wait. They’ll make a little noise right now but later on, they’ll quiet down,'" Kariem said. "But we can’t quiet down. We have got to keep pressure on them until they do what is necessary to make this community viable to live in.”
Kariem said that when it rains, a noticeable stench of urine and feces blankets the nearby neighborhood, explaining it’s the smell of septic tanks backing up following heavy downpours.
Kariem’s neighbor, Miguel Vazquez, showed News4Jax a drainage ditch right in front of his house still filled with rainwater, which he said will eventually flood his backyard.
“Every time it rains, the running water from the street that goes into the ditch in front of our homes gets so filled up that it backs up into our yards. Once it gets into our yards, it goes into the septic tanks. Automatically, it fills up and it backs up into our house," Vazquez explained.
Vasquez said he’s burned out three pumps that he purchased recently, trying to pump the runoff waters away from his septic tank so the septic tank would not get backed up. He said the neighborhood home values have depreciated as a result, and he’s insulted Jacksonville still hasn’t fulfilled the promise that the city made in 1968 to improve sewage and drainage systems in the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
“Terrible. I don’t know how many more years we’ll be able to stand for this,” Vazquez said. “Please hurry up and bring our sewage lines into our street area and all our area of Moncrief Village. It would do a great help for our community."
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson told News4Jax that the Social Justice and Community Investment Committee is currently looking for new funding sources and it’s planning a follow-up meeting on Oct. 16 on this issue.