Connect to Protect

Connect to Protect is Martin County’s environmental initiative to connect residential properties currently on septic systems to the County’s wastewater collection and treatment system, thus 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 contaminants such as nitrogen, phosphorous and fecal coliform, and help protect the health of the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Estuary and offshore reefs.

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

Martin County’s Connect to Protect program streamlines the connection process while giving residents the opportunity to reduce pollution and help protect our waterways.  Residents benefit in other ways too, like not having to deal with septic system-related issues and maintenance costs, as well as having more flexibility in how their property is used.
 

Workers installing pipes

Why is it Important?

Why is Connect to Protect so important? 

There are many benefits of converting from septic to sewer:

For the good of your health. Conversion will reduce and eliminate contamination of our waterways due to enteric, or intestinal, bacteria 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 goodbye to a septic system means saying goodbye to yard sludge, unpleasant odors and financial headaches. Septic tank systems cost around $15,000, increase the cost of addressing plumbing issues, and when they fail, can result in additional costs due to property damage and hazardous material cleanup.  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. Conversion will help protect these resources and the quality of our waterways by reducing nutrient inputs that contribute to algal 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.

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.

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

Map

5-Year Connect to Protect Work Plan

Select the button below to view the 5-Year Connect to Protect Work Plan (2020-25). Please note, the map is subject to change.

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 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.

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.

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.

Self Logo

Special Financing Program:

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. View the Martin County Septic to Sewer (S2S) Loan for more details and to see if you qualify for assistance.

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 pre-construction condition. All contractors are approved experts hired by the County at a competitive rate.

SIGNING UP FOR CONNECT TO PROTECT: Getting started is easy! Submit an inquiry online, or call Martin County Utilities at (772) 221-1434.

Customer Testimonials

This morning one of your crews arrived and installed a sewer grinder at our home in Jensen Beach. They were polite and professional. They answered all our questions, explained the system and were like a well oiled machine. They were crisp and cleaned up like they were never here. Being in construction my whole adult life, I can tell you I was impressed with these hard working competent men, and would be proud at any time to have them work for me. I would be honored to recommend your service to anyone with a question.”

- Marty and Robin B., Stuart

“Thanks to you and your team for a smooth and easy connection process. Everyone involved from Vince to Baker's team of guys did an excellent job in installing the grinder and putting my landscape back to its original condition. Baker's guys were professional, they explained everything about the new system and how to problem solve when necessary.  I am totally on board with the necessity for connecting to sewer systems to protect our rivers and environment.”

 - Cathy M., Jensen Beach

"We would like to express our appreciation to all involved with this process from the initial communications about the project to the actual installation. Communications were well ahead of time with complete explanations, questions were answered promptly, the site preparation visit was scheduled and completed in a professional manner, necessary electric work was courteously and neatly done before the installation of the grinder. The crew arrived on time the day of installation, explained what would be done, worked through the day and shared grinder information with us. We were so pleased to see very little disturbance to the yard and they even saved the flowers planted near the installation. Sod was placed around the area within days of the work. So we send our appreciation to the county and companies hired to complete the "Connect to Protect Grinder System" Well done from beginning to end! ”

- Eric and Ann S.

 

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.