Septic to Sewer Conversions
Pollution from septic tanks poses a significant threat to our waterways. Since the 1990s, Martin County's Utilities Department has eliminated 70 package plants in Martin County; fifty of these systems were considered a threat to the Indian River Lagoon. By doing so, we have prevented nearly 6 million gallons per day of wastewater from entering our waterways. In addition, we have completed eight projects to provide sewer service to 1,762 properties formally served by septic tanks, including areas in Jensen Beach, Golden Gate, North River Shores and Palm City.
We recently conducted extensive research to identify the sites of greatest concern regarding potential pollution from septic tanks. Our study found five of the 14 sites sampled had detections of chemical and/or biological markers and elevated bacterial counts. The presence of a human fecal source marker was detected at sites located in the Golden Gate area and in the All American Ditch in Palm City. The combination of consistently elevated counts of fecal coliform bacteria and detection of sucralose (artificial sweeteners) suggests inadequately treated human waste water sources may be present. Dr. Brian LaPointe with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has conducted a septic tank study at these two sites to further determine the interaction between septic tanks, ground waters and surface waters of the St. Lucie River and Estuary.
The County recently updated a report that prioritizes areas in need of septic to sewer conversion. The current report prioritizes and provides cost estimates for 24 communities located along the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon within Martin County. The Board of County Commissioners recently received this report and is moving forward with prioritized septic to sewer conversions in Old Palm City, Golden Gate and North River Shores.