An Update on the Wekiva Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) from Orange County

From Orange County Commissioner Rod Love

This week at the meeting of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) provided an update on the progress of the Wekiva Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) during a work session. This work session provided an update on activities that have occurred since the first work session that took place at the March 6th, 2018 Board meeting.

Orange County Commissioner Rod Love

During the Board meeting on January 9th, 2018, City of Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson (then Commissioner Nelson) had brought up the topic of the Wekiva BMAP as an open discussion item, where he expressed concerns posed by residents about the required nitrogen reduction plan and how various stakeholders would cover those associated costs. In response to these concerns, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs asked staff to schedule a series of work sessions for the Board to hold a discussion on the issue.

The first work session provided an overview of the Wekiva BMAP, which included its history and the requirement to update the BMAP by July 1st, 2018, with a 20 year project plan for the stakeholders to collectively meet the Total Maximum Daily Load by reducing the total nitrogen loading to the basin, impairing Wekiwa Spring and Rock Springs. Additionally, a representative from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) also discussed the details of BMAP revisions required by recent statute changes that include the 2016 Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (Florida Statutes sections 373.801-373.813). The 2016 Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act requires a BMAP for Wekiwa and Rock Springs. According to FDEP, the Act requires that there be a Priority Focus Area (PFA) boundary; a nitrogen reduction goal (of ~209,000 Ibs TN/yr for the Wekiva Basin); within a 20 year timeframe with 5, 10, and 15 year milestones; a septic remediation plan in the PFA (required if ≥ 20% nitrogen load from septic); and an education plan.. To date, Orange County has submitted 86 projects in the following categories and amounts: Wastewater (39); stormwater/MS4 (38); land conservation (4); education (1); and septic (4). Out of all the areas included in the BMAP, Orange County is considered the largest stakeholder.

On March 27th, 2018, then District 2 Commissioner Nelson hosted a community meeting on the Wekiva BMAP in Apopka. Approximately 200 people attended the meeting. Speakers at the meeting included: FDEP, EPD, Florida Department of Health (FDOH), and St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD). FDEP discussed the BMAP program, EPD discussed projects, FDOH discussed types of septic systems that treat nitrogen, and SJRWMD discussed current cost-share opportunities. Citizen feedback and concerns from the meeting focused around costs of upgrades and conversions, timeframes for BMAP implementation, contingencies for power outages, and performance for nitrogen-reducing systems; FDOH and FDEP were unable to provide clear answers to many of the concerns raised.

EPD sent a letter to FDEP containing the following: A requested delay of the BMAP adoption date; concerns regarding certain BMAP provisions; outlined concerns of residents; and a concern about the short window for staff to review and comment. FDEP responded to the letter stating that it was not able to postpone the adoption date due to statutory obligations. However, FDEP did state that it would address concerns by delaying implementation of existing systems and providing funding opportunities. FDEP will provide funding to local utilities to study (feasibility studies) where sewer is appropriate within the PFA. Within the PFA, and upon failure/replacement of the septic system, FDEP will fund the difference between the conventional system replacement and nitrogen treatment system or pay the sewer hookup fee.

State Senator Randolph Bracy (D-11) and Representatives Bruce Antone (D-46) and Kamia Brown (D-45) hosted a community meeting in Pine Hills on June 13th, 2018. There were approximately 100 people in attendance at the meeting, and speakers included FDEP, FDOH, EPD, and Orange County Utilities. FDEP discussed the BMAP program, timeline, and funding; FDOH discussed septic options for nitrogen treatment, and EPD and Utilities discussed submitted projects.

On Tuesday’s work session, staff presented the results of the gap analysis performed by FDEP in regards to Orange County’s required nutrient reduction allocation. According to the results, the required reductions for stakeholders is now at ~100,000 Ibs TN/yr; staff noted that they have justified the reduction values with FDEP, and Orange County and other stakeholders received reduction credit. Because Orange County is about half of the basin, they are targeting a reduction goal of ~50,000 Ibs TN by Year 20. The draft springs BMAP received by EPD directs future reductions primarily in categories of septic upgrades or sanitary connections.

When a resident’s existing septic system fails on lots on less than one acre, a homeowner grant program will step in to assist with the costs of the enhanced nitrogen treatment portion of septic or sewer connection. The septic requirement for existing systems will not be enforced until funding for the program is available. New systems will be required to comply with the BMAP on July 1, 2018.  For the funding of other water quality projects, existing grant programs are available through FDEP and Water Management Districts (WMDs) (match required). The Wekiva Springshed Education Grant Agreement ($150K) will assist with funding education programs.

FDEP provided the following estimated implementation schedule for the Wekiva BMAP:

  • July 1st, 2018-New BMAP will go into effect
  • Late 2018-Homeowner grant programs will be available
  • Fall 2018-Education programs will begin
  • Summer 2023-Feasibility studies will be complete for septic to sanitary conversions
  • Ongoing-FDOH rulemaking on passive Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal System (OSTDS)
  • Ongoing-Orange County water quality projects

Staff provided an overview of the projects proposed for the FY 18/19 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). EPD’s CIP for FY 18/19 is approximately $8.9 million; the Wekiva CIP is approximately $7.6 million.

For the education requirement, staff will create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page and website for septic requirements, work with FDEP/FDOH/property owners on public workshops, and a grant was awarded for an education campaign on fertilizer and septic for the basin. In terms of policy, the County’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code will be updated to ensure that changes resulting from the Wekiva BMAP are in compliance. The State will focus on the Springs BMAP, which includes septic conversion to sewer and septic upgrades. The County will work with FDEP on a feasibility study and assist FDOH to ensure that residents are educated about their options.

In summary, Orange County is the largest stakeholder in the Wekiva BMAP; the nutrient reduction schedule will require significant capital expenditures; the State is looking for stakeholders to prioritize sewer connections and septic system upgrades; EPD’s proposed FY 18/19 CIP is $8.95 million to help reduce the nitrogen load; and FDEP will be providing limited funding to offset project costs.

Residents interested in viewing the full presentation from this week’s work session can access it here http://netapps.ocfl.net/Mod/meetings/1.

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