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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, May 22, 2018 4 months ago

Ormond Beach eyes septic to sewer conversion in Ormond-by-the-Sea

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The north side of the peninsula was deemed unsuitable for septic by the Florida Department of Health in 2013.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

In accordance with Volusia County's long-term goal to eliminate all septic systems in areas where waste is being disposed into local waterways, the city of Ormond Beach is starting to look into converting all homes in the north side of the beachside from the city limit and up toward Ormond-by-the-Sea from septic to sewer systems.

The city's planning board discussed the transition from septic to sewer in residences during its meeting on Thursday, May 10. The board and city staff centered their discussion around the north peninsula, which was deemed unsuitable for septic by the Florida Department of Health in a 2013 Volusia County report on sewage disposal and collection. Planning Director Steven Spraker said at the meeting that the key issue for the city in transitioning residents to city sewage is funding.

“In any funding scenario, residents have a responsibility," Spraker said. "There are impact fees. There are cost participations that would be needed.”

From the resident perspective, City Manager Joyce Shanahan said at the meeting they would need to overcome the cost of initial connection and monthly fee for sewage as well as some residents' fear they would then be annexed into the city. These concerns would place education of why the transition is needed as a priority for the city.

The Volusia County septic system reduction plan stated that the Halifax River Watershed "is one of the most urbanized watersheds in Volusia County." While most of the area, which spans from New Smyrna Beach north of the Mosquito Lagoon Watershed to the Volusia and Flagler County line, is served by a central sewer, there are also older development areas that have individual septic systems — in the north peninsula, the plan said there are about 5,000 high-density residences that fall under this category.

City Commissioner Dwight Selby said Ormond Beach is the only entity that can get them off septic. He added that the city has a preliminary design for this, which is broken up into phases. The first would cost a half million dollars and would convert an estimated 700 homes.

Shanahan said at the planning board meeting that in the past 15 years, the city has reduced the amount of wastewater going into the river by two million gallons per day. A four million gallon storage tank for reuse water was also built on Orchard Lane for irrigation and fire use.

“That’s not the only answer, but that’s part of the equation, so you can’t forget that piece," Shanahan said. "We can do that piece with capital funding on a regular basis. But we need partnerships on the north [peninsula] to help with that.”

Dave Ponitz, the city's utilities manager, said the city is currently in the early stages of educating the public about the transition. Until this upcoming budget year, he said none of the conceptual septic to sewer projects were illustrated for funding for the capital improvement projects for the city.

"There's a lot of discussion that needs to happen from our leaders who decide what the city is going to fund," Ponitz said.

Selby said this was urgent because the transition from septic to sewer in the north peninsula has been talked about a lot, but there has been no action. Now that state legislature has recently funded various local water quality projects, Selby said there is receptivity for design and permitted "shovel-ready" projects. 

The city will hold a capital improvement workshop on June 5 to identify funding sources to move forward with the conversion. The topic will also be discussed during the city's Citizen Engagement Initiative meeting on Aug. 30.

“At that CIP workshop, I’m hopeful that the commission will agree with me that this is a priority and that we need to do this now, but we have to discuss it," Selby said. "We have not taken any formal action on it at this point.”

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