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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Oct. 28, 2019 3 weeks ago

First, prove to us that Ormond-by-the-Sea's septic tanks are polluting

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OBTS is suffering from taxation without representation.
by: Guest Writer

By Roger Nutt

Guest Writer

The article by Jarleene Almenas in the Oct. 17 edition covered some aspects of the septic-to-sewer conversion very well. Thank you. But we are not asking for another septic study. What we want is to have one done in the first place.

The Volusia County Health Department report on the status of sewage disposal and collection in Volusia County dated November 2013 claims to be objective and scientific. It is neither. Moreover, this report is not even a study. It is merely a compendium of 66 areas where septic systems are installed.

Any area which floods is clearly one where the use of septic systems should be avoided. The report contains at least three areas where flooding occurs frequently (there may be others) and which the report claims are best suited to remain on septic. This is patently absurd.

No attempt was made, in this report, to determine whether the septic systems in a particular area actually cause any environmental pollution. Because the Halifax River (and the adjoining Tomoka Basin) run alongside the peninsula, it has been assumed that the nitrogenous pollution which apparently exists in these waterways originates there. Since the source of the Halifax River and Tomoka Basin pollution has not been determined, untested assumptions are being presented as fact.

This may lead to the kind of high density development which will change the nature and character of our delightful village permanently.

Septic tanks can, and do, produce water which contains nitrogen and phosphorus. Most of this is then removed from the waste water by anaerobic and aerobic bacteria within the external drain field, which is an integral part of the septic system. Any remainder can be dissipated by similar bacterial activity in the adjacent sand. The sand beneath the northern peninsula provides a perfect environment for septic system drain fields. Partially treated effluent enters the sand so slowly that the layer of active biology surrounding the drain field laterals is able to capture, consume and degrade the nutrients and many toxins present in the effluent.

Our soil tests show that these pollutants are not present below the highly active layer, which prevents their introduction into the ground water below.

It is the unique properties of the sand on which Ormond-by-the-Sea rests, together with the proximity of the ocean, which makes OBTS one of the best places in the country to use private septic systems for disposal of human waste.

The Halifax River and the adjacent Tomoka Basin are undoubtedly more polluted than they were before the high bridges were built and city sewage plants started pumping their surplus effluent (which still contains nitrates) into it. Pollution in these waterways probably originates from these sewage facilities (there are at least three) and other polluters (including the septic systems in Holly Hill) located west of the Halifax River, including the Tomoka River, which is polluted in its own right.

I am a homeowner in Ormond-by-the-Sea, and I am not convinced that any of the pollution in the Halifax or the Tomoka originates from our septic systems. And we homeowners should not be expected, or obligated, to contribute a colossal amount of money, which few of us can afford, to pay for a central sewage system which we do not want, and almost certainly do not need, which will not improve our health or the condition of the environment around us. It may even make this worse.

The homeowners of Ormond-by-the-Sea have no mandate to select the Ormond Beach politicians who are planning to levy this colossal tax upon us, although the politicians have no evidence whatsoever that their unilaterally enforced solution will have any effect on the problem. In our view, this compulsory conversion will do absolutely nothing to reduce pollution in the waterways, and is very likely to increase it. Yet the property owners of Ormond-by-the-Sea will be forced to pay the vast majority of the cost for doing it.

This is commonly known as taxation without representation.

Homeowners in the area are only now becoming aware of what the politicians in Ormond Beach are thrusting upon them. We can only hope that county and state politicians will become aware of the situation which is rapidly developing in OBTS, before they oblige Florida taxpayers to spend tens of millions of dollars to force OBTS residents from a safe, clean, low-volume point of source treatment system to the compromised high volume centralized system which the EPA already knows is leaking raw sewage into our soils and dumping nutrients and toxins into the ground and surface waters.

The state of Florida should conduct its own soil and water tests in OBTS drain fields and nearby waters. This project presents an ideal opportunity for the state to demonstrate how the value of scarce taxpayer dollars can be optimized very effectively.

At the moment, we cannot conclusively prove that our septic systems are not polluting the Halifax River. Likewise, the politicians who are insisting that we must connect to their sewage plant — at our expense — can't prove that they are. What we are asking is that they spend just a little of the colossal amount of money they plan to squander on this project for a proper scientific study designed to find out whether it is really worthwhile. Is this too much to ask?

Suggested scope of the proposed study

1. Determine the precise amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus actually generated by OBTS septic systems which are then transported into the Halifax River.

2. Establish desired water quality goal (based on the latest total maximum daily load).

3. Determine the exact amount which the proposed conversion of OBTS septic systems to the Ormond Beach sewage plant will contribute to this goal (including any offset generated by an anticipated increase in the Ormond Beach sewage plant point source loading).

4. Determine whether the operational performance of septic systems in Ormond-by-the-Sea warrants their future conversion to nitrogen-reducing systems

5. Determine extent to which the total maximum daily load of the relevant BMAP (basin management action plan)  could be achieved by stormwater collection and treatment and/or public education and outreach.

Roger L. Nutt is an Ormond-by-the-Sea resident with a bachelor's degree in physics.

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