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Connect to Protect

  • Connect to Protect logo
Page Updated: 
November 04, 2020 at 08:48 AM

About

Connect to Protect

Connect to Protect is Martin County’s environmental initiative, connecting residential properties currently on septic systems to the County’s wastewater collection and treatment system, improving the health of nearby waterways. The stakes are high for our health, home, environment and economy.  

Septic tanks allow nutrients and pathogens to contaminate waterways which can result in harmful algal blooms and can even seep into on-site water wells. Septic to sewer conversion will reduce water body contaminants including nitrogen, phosphorous and fecal coliform, and help protect the health of the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Estuary, and offshore reefs that are vital to our community, environment and economy.

The truth is, most septic systems will fail eventually.  Septic tanks with concrete or metal parts can degrade over time, leading drain fields to becoming clogged with organic material which makes the system unusable. Pipes blocked by roots, soils saturated by high water tables, crushed distribution pipes, improper location, poor original design or poor installation can all lead to major problems. By far the most common reason for early failure is inadequate maintenance by homeowners. 

Martin County’s Connect to Protect conversion program streamlines the connection process while giving residents the opportunity to collectively reduce pollution and help protect waterways.  Residents benefit in other ways too, like no more septic system-related issues and maintenance costs, and far more flexibility in how the property is used.

Why is it Important?

Why is Connect to Protect so important? 

The crucial benefits of converting from septic to sewer are many:

For the good of your health. Conversion will reduce and eliminate contamination of our waterways due to enteric, or intestinal, bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella, in insufficiently treated wastewater, which at elevated levels may be a potential health risk for upset stomach, diarrhea, eye irritation and skin rashes. It will also keep septic tank wastewater out of groundwater wells used for drinking water.

For the good of your home – and your bottom line. Saying good-bye to a septic system means saying good-bye to yard sludge, unpleasant odors and related financial headaches. Septic tank systems cost around $15,000, increase the cost of addressing any plumbing issues, and when they fail, can result in additional costs due to property damage and hazardous material cleanup, aside from the repair bill.  Additionally, septic-free homes give residents the freedom to plant trees, improve landscaping, and even add a pool. 

For the good of our environment. Martin County’s coastal resources are ecological jewels. The St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and miles of beaches are the lifeblood of our community – for people as well as wildlife and marine life. Conversion will help protect these resources and the quality of our waterways, by reducing nutrient inputs that contribute to algae blooms and are detrimental to marine life and seagrasses. These grasses are vital to the health of our lagoon - they serve as a nursery for juvenile fish, a habitat for shrimp, crabs and seahorses, and a food source for manatees. 

For the good of Martin County’s economy. Conversion will help Martin County maintain clear, clean waterways, which is essential in supporting the individuals and businesses that depend on them for their livelihood. Tourism and recreation, two other important revenue streams for the community, also rely on healthy waterways. 

And there’s more good news:

1. The cost of conversion is about half the cost of a new septic system, and in some cases the same as a major repair or even what would be spent over the lifetime of a septic system.

2. For homebuyers, or homeowners who refinance, the total cost of conversion can be rolled into your mortgage or may be significantly less after factoring in available grants or financing. 

3. Predictable monthly fees associated with either the grinder or vacuum system make personal budgeting simple and convenient.

4. Septic system repair and maintenance will no longer create inconvenience or added household expenses.

Grinder or Vacuum?

Smaller communities (fewer than 300 homes) will join an individual, on-site grinder station program to connect to the County sewer system. Larger communities (more than 300 homes) will be served by an assessment-based vacuum sewer system connection. If you have questions about which system is planned for your neighborhood, contact our Utilities Project Manager.

Grinder System

HOW IT WORKS:

In a grinder system, small diameter mains are installed utilizing a directional boring technique. It is a minimal impact trenchless method of installing underground utilities such as these pipelines.

The technique is routinely used when conventional trenching or excavating is not practical or when minimal surface disturbance is required. With a grinder station connection, a grinder pump and tank are (hyperlink to poster of the grinder pump, as well as time-lapse video) installed in-ground on the property with the connection to a house and then to the County sewer line.

Waste flows from the home into the grinder tank, and when it reaches a certain level it is then pumped from your property directly into the County’s sewer system for treatment. 

Owners are responsible for:

  • maintaining the plumbing and sewer lines from the home to the grinder station tank;
  • providing the electricity it needs to run on. 

The County owns and is responsible for:

  • installing the grinder tank and sewer lines between it and the street; 
  • restoring property to its preconstruction condition;
  • repairing and maintaining  the grinder system pump, tank, control panel, and sewer line leaving the grinder system;
  • responding to all alarms and customer concerns.

Individuals taking part in the grinder station program will: 

1. Meet with the County staff to review the property and discuss installation location of the control panel and grinder tank. The County will confirm existing utilities, septic system location and attributes like fences, gates, landscape, and sprinklers, to find the least obstructed path for installation and take preconstruction photographs.

2. Meet with the County customer service representative to go over payment options and sign a maintenance and installation agreement, so that the home-owner and the County can work together as partners to ensure the grinder system installation works as it should.

3. Work closely with approved contractors to review the property and discuss installation. The approved contractor will confirm existing utilities, septic system location and identify work areas with flags and stakes so there’s an agreed upon location for the grinder tank and control panel.  

4. Be contacted by the County’s electrical contractor to install the dedicated electrical service, electrical disconnect, and control panel.

5. Schedule a construction start date. The work is predictable and so is the schedule. 

6. Be updated by the County approved contractor on connection progress, as well as the abandonment of the existing septic system.

Finally, residents should rest assured that a County utilities field inspector will be on site for the grinder system installation and septic abandonment process.

Vacuum System

HOW IT WORKS:

With a vacuum system connection, vacuum sewer lines are installed, ready to connect each home. The County sewer lines, which carry wastewater, will be evacuated to a neighborhood vacuum pump station.

Once the wastewater level in the vacuum pump station tank reaches a certain level, it is then pumped to the County wastewater treatment facility. Repair and maintenance of vacuum systems is solely the responsibility of the County.

In communities that will be served by a vacuum sewer system:

1. A vacuum pump station will be designed to blend in with the neighborhood’s architecture and aesthetics. It will be installed with connecting pipes to link each house in the neighborhood to the County’s wastewater system. 

2. Each neighborhood will receive advance notice regarding when the project will start and finish.

3. Martin County and its contractors will make every effort to minimize disruption and inconvenience to neighborhoods during the construction phase of the project. Construction work will take place with sensitivity to hours of operation and the need for emergency vehicles, school buses, postal deliveries and other services to access the neighborhood.

Connection Dates

By Neighborhood:

Click or tap on the image below to view future expected projects, dates for connection and whether residents would be assigned a grinder or vacuum system. Please note, map is subject to change.

Connect to Protect Neighborhood Timeline Map

How to Sign Up

Connect to Protect Logo

 We pledge that in the process of implementing a grinder or vacuum system, residents can rest assured that County teams will restore their property to its preconstruction condition. All contractors are approved experts hired by the County at a competitive rate to residents.

Signing up for Connect to Protect:

Getting started is easy! Submit an inquiry online via the button below, or call Martin County Utilities at (772) 221-1434.

Financial Commitment

We know septic to sewer conversion can be expensive. That’s why Martin County is continuously exploring every option available to reduce costs to its residents. Funding sources to reduce program costs come from dedicated County reserves, state and local grants, and legislative appropriations. When owners confer with a Martin County customer service representative, they will be provided with the latest financial assistance options available.

Grinder Investment

The cost for the MCU installed residential grinder system in communities with new force mains is $10,000, however, if the homeowner connects within 365 days of the new force main being available, the cost is reduced to a lump sum payment of $8,000.  A letter of connection availability will be mailed to residents at the completion of project construction.

Financial incentives for early connection are available. Once connected, there will be a monthly sewer charge on the residents’ water bill of approximately $18, in addition to a usage charge based on the number of gallons of water used.

Vacuum Investment

Owners served by a vacuum sewer system will pay for connection via a special assessment on their annual property tax bill amortized over 20 years.  The balance can be paid off at any time or the assessment can be paid in full prior to going to the tax bill.

Additionally, when these owners establish a sewer account, they will be required to pay for lateral service connection from their house or to the County sewer line. There will be a monthly sewer charge on the water bill based on the number of gallons of water used.

Financial Aid

Martin County offers a program for residents who desire to offset costs of the connection. The Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF), is a non-profit lending organization that can help reduce loan costs up to $1,000. Residents should review SELF details to see if they qualify for support.

Contact Us

If you have any additional questions about Martin County's Connect to Protect Program, you may contact us via the button below, or call Martin County Utilities at (772) 221-1434.

 

 

Workers installing pipes
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