Push to fund septic-to-sewer project near Wekiwa Springs

The State of Florida could be digging up thousands of septic tanks near a Central Florida treasure, hoping to clean things up and keep Wekiwa Springs crystal clear.

The state budget is coming down from the governor in a little more than a week. One Orange County commissioner and thousands of others are pushing for funding that will take care of something near and dear to them: Wekiwa Springs.

Those who live around the springs want to keep them popular and cleaner than ever. The springs have been contaminated with nitrogen over the years.

“The DEP [Department of Environmental Protection]found that about 30% of the nitrogen entering the springs is coming from septic tanks,” said Mike Cliburn, secretary for Friends of Wekiva.

Now Cliburn, Friends of Wekiva, and Orange County are pushing for a 12-year, $123 million project to clean it up. That money would pay to convert septic tanks to sewers in roughly 2,000 homes and businesses near the springs. The project was initially met with some resistance.

“Who wants to tell you the state’s going to tell you that you have to change your septic out and you’re all on your own,” said Orange County District 2 Commissioner Christine Moore.

But now the county’s covering a quarter of the cost. The state DEP and St. Johns Water Management are covering half. Homeowners would wind up paying 10%, which comes to about $6,000 per household. The county is asking the state for $500,000 in the upcoming budget to help cover the shortfall.

“We’re a little bit short. That’s why we’re really hoping that our $500,000 does not get vetoed,” said Commissioner Moore.

Andrea Samson is one of the homeowners who will wind up paying her share.

“Nobody wants to see 20 years worth of landscaping ripped up,” said Samson.

She says she is more than happy to pay it because the alternatives are pricier and more damaging.

“If you’re given two choices, advanced system and sewers, the logical choice is sewers.”

“Wekiwa Springs and Rock Springs, I think, are real treasures for Central Florida,” said Cliburn.

Residents nearby just want to keep it that way. The Friends of Wekiva are asking people to fill out a comment form online by June 30 and reach out to the DEP and Florida Governor’s Office to urge him to approve the additional funding for the project.