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St. Johns Riverkeeper suggests different approach to septic tank problem

Not enough money left to phase out septic tanks in Jacksonville’s Christobel neighborhood

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The septic tank phaseout program hit a huge snag recently because the costs are higher than the city of Jacksonville planned for.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper is suggesting another approach to solving what she calls a multibillion-dollar problem.

The St. Johns River has a long history of containing pollutants that could be harmful -- the algae blooms of years past and fish kills blamed on the increased runoff of fertilizers, illegal dumping and thousands of the city’s failing septic tanks.

“There are about 15 to 16,000 septic tanks that are too close to waterways within Jacksonville that need to be removed," said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman. “There are several neighborhoods.”

One of those neighborhoods that Rinaman referred to is the Christobel neighborhood on Jacksonville’s Northside. Residents learned this week that there’s not enough money left to phase out hundreds of septic tanks and replace them with city sewer. It’s a promise that was made to them in 1968 when Jacksonville expanded its city boundaries.

“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,’” said Northside resident Yah Ya Kariem. “But we can’t quiet down. We have got to keep pressure on them until they do what is necessary to make this area viable to live in.”

Rinaman said she’s disappointed to learn that the city now has to find another revenue source to connect those families to city sewer services.

“It just adds one other health threat on top of too many in these areas, and we’re all connected,” Rinaman said.

She said the city should be approaching the problem from a more comprehensive standpoint to help take the burden off the shoulders of solely the city.

“It’s something that local governments, as well as state governments and federal resources, need to address collectively because we’ve been kicking the can down the road too long, and it’s making our rivers sick and it’s making our citizens sick," Rinaman said.

On Thursday, the News4Jax I-TEAM asked Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s office whether finding the money to phase out the septic tanks in the Christobel neighborhood is a priority for his administration but had not received a response as of publication.


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