Current Status of the Wekiva River Basin BMAP: Our Position
Six springs advocacy groups have appealed a ruling by an Administrative Law Judge in February, 2021, that upheld the Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The plans that were appealed include the BMAPs for Blue Springs, Rainbow & Silver Springs, Suwannee River, and the Sante Fe River.
The FOWR did not appeal the ruling upholding the Wekiwa & Rock Springs BMAP because the Septic Tank Remediation Plan within the Wekiva & Rock Springs basin would take effect sooner if we did not appeal. The Remediation Plan would require all existing septic tanks on lots less than one acre within the Priority Focus Area (PFA) to be either connected to a central sewer system or upgraded to reduce effluent nitrogen concentrations within 20 years from the date the BMAP is adopted. The Plan would also require that if existing septic tanks needed to be repaired or replaced, they must either be connected to sewer within 5 years or upgraded to reduce effluent nitrogen.
Unfortunately, the Septic Tank Remediation Plan has not yet gone into effect because the BMAP required that 3 conditions must be met. The first condition was that local governments must complete a wastewater feasibility analysis. Apopka and Orange County are currently working on theirs. The second condition was that funding must be available to offset the cost to homeowners. The state’s Springs Protection funding satisfies this condition. The third condition was that the Florida Department of Health must complete their rule-making for in-ground nitrogen-reducing biological filters. With FDEP taking over the septic tank permitting program from the Department of Health, the rule-making process was started all over again, so that condition has not been satisfied. At this point, FDEP has not issued a timeline for adopting that rule.
So the Septic Tank Remediation Plan for Wekiwa & Rock Springs is not yet in effect. FOWR will continue to monitor the progress. The BMAP provides that the Septic Tank Remediation Plan must be implemented no later than 5 years after the BMAP is adopted. Because FOWR did not appeal the ALJ’s ruling, the Wekiwa & Rock Springs BMAP was formally adopted by FDEP on May 18, 2021. Therefore, the Septic Tank Remediation Plan should go into effect in May, 2026 at the latest.
The good news is that Orange County is moving forward with their septic to sewer plan in the Wekiwa Springs basin. The plan will provide central sewers in 20 neighborhoods that are located southwest of, and within a short travel time from, Wekiwa Springs. This 12-year program will eventually connect 2,057 homes to central sewers. Funding for the program is being provided, in part, by FDEP and the St. Johns River Water Management District through the Springs Protection grants.