By Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson
Thank you to everyone that came out to the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) Community Meeting last week. I have received many inquiries since the meeting requesting more information on the State mandated BMAP process. In an attempt to address those inquiries, I wanted to provide a recap of the meeting as well as some history regarding BMAPs and how residents are impacted today.
For residents who are unfamiliar as to the purpose for this community meeting, the State of Florida is updating the Wekiva BMAP. The changes to this BMAP may affect all homeowners with septic tanks that reside within the basin; representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) addressed these changes. In addition, representatives from the DEP, FDOH, Orange County Utilities and Orange County Environmental Protection Division (EPD), and the St. Johns River Water Management District were also present to address attendees and answer questions. The BMAP and potential impacts to permitted Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal (Septic) systems were the main topics of discussion at this community meeting. This meeting primarily affected residents who are currently on septic systems. However, all residents within the Wekiva Basin were welcome to attend.
The meeting kicked off with an introduction from myself, followed by presentations given by each representative. Each representative discussed the following topics in their presentations: Kevin Coyne from DEP discussed legislation related to the BMAP; Julie Bortles from EPD presented an updated list of projects; Dr. Eberhard Roeder from FDOH discussed onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems; and Mary Brabram from the St. Johns River Water Management District spoke briefly about funding options. While each representative was speaking, staff from my office passed out and collected question cards to attendees; I presented the questions to the representatives so that they may be addressed during the Question and Answer Session following the presentations.
Mr. Coyne opened his presentation with an overview of the regulatory framework applicable to the Wekiva BMAP: The Florida Watershed Restoration Act (Section 403.067, Florida Statutes (F.S.)); and the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (Part VIII of Chapter 373), Florida Statutes (F.S.)). In 2016, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act to protect and restore the 24 first magnitude springs, 6 additional named springs, and their associated spring runs. The law requires DEP to assess the springs and determine the level of impairment. This is done by assessing what is known as the total maximum daily load (TMDL). TMDL is the total amount of a pollutant that a water body can assimilate while still meeting water quality standards. For each spring, there is an established TMDL. In addition, each spring has a plan to achieve the required pollutant load reductions to meet the TMDL. This plan is called a Basin Management Action Plan, or BMAP for short. The BMAP provides strategies to reduce the number of pollutants impairing the water body. The legislation requires that the TMDL must be achieved in 20 years with a phased implementation schedule of 5, 10 and 15-year targets. The BMAP for our area is known as the Wekiva River, Rock Springs Run, and Little Wekiva Canal BMAP.
As previously mentioned, the Act mandates that the impaired springs (referred to as Outstanding Florida Springs or OFS) achieve a certain TMDL in twenty years. As such, DEP must create or revise BMAPs for each spring to achieve this goal. DEP is currently revising the Wekiva BMAP and plans to have a draft copy ready sometime in May. These efforts involve working with local governments (county, city, etc.), local groups (non-profits, non-governmental organizations, and the industry. The deadline for all BMAPS to be in final form is July 2018. The BMAP includes the following: Identification of pollutants affecting the water body; a list of projects to reduce the pollutants as well as the costs associated with the projects and the amount of pollutant reduction achieved by the projects; a boundary area called the Primary Focus Area (PFA) where the plan takes effect; an onsite sewage treatment and disposal system (OSTDS) remediation plan if septic tanks contribute at least 20% of the nitrogen pollution within a PFA; any financial assistance available to achieve the goals and best management practices. In addition, the statute requires that new OSTDSs within the PFAs on lots less than 1 acre be prohibited (by statute) unless there are exceptions described by the BMAP. As provided by the BMAP, both an OSTDS with nitrogen enhancement and conventional OSTDS (if the property is scheduled for a sewer project listed in the BMAP) are exceptions to this rule.
EPD discussed the BMAP’s identification of nitrogen sources at the meeting in the following amounts: Septic systems (29%); urban fertilizer (26%); wastewater treatment facility (17%); farm fertilizer (11%); sports turf (7%); atmospheric deposition (6%); nurseries (3%); and livestock waste (1%). Each BMAP will list what the required nitrogen reduction must be in order to meet the TMDL. At this time, the estimated nitrogen reduction for the Wekiva BMAP is approximately 209,428 pounds. There is to be 30% reduction in five years, another 50% reduction by year-10, another 20% reduction by year-15 for a total of 100% reduction by year-20. As part of the BMAP process, steps must be taken to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the impaired water bodies. The predominant areas examined to achieve this goal are septic systems, fertilizers, and wastewater treatment facilities. As previously mentioned, if septic systems contribute 20% or more of the nitrogen loading into the springs, an OSTDS remediation plan is necessary. FDOH regulates OSTDS or septic tanks and is the entity responsible for the remediation plan in conjunction with DEP. For the Wekiva BMAP, the remediation plan applies to new or existing septic tanks in the PFA on lots less than an acre. DOH is in the process of revising their rules and we are waiting to see what type of septic systems will be required as a result. Portions of Lake, Seminole, and Orange Counties, including all of Apopka, are in the Wekiva PFA and will be affected by this remediation plan. EPD touched on the projects Orange County has as part of the BMAP during the meeting: Modular wetland (fits into the existing piped stormwater system at Bay Lake); stormwater reuse (430 acres per foot of water provided annually at Lake Lawne); a stormwater treatment area at Little Wekiva; baffle boxes at Lake Gandy; curb inlet baskets at Lakes Lawne and Weston; educational materials on water conservation, pet waste and fertilizer; and an upgrade of the wastewater facility to advanced treatment (the only Orange County facility in the basin).
DEP and DOH will mandate what the BMAP and OSTDS remediation will be. The unfunded mandate put forward by the State could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to try to meet these aggressive reductions and the cost will fall to local governments. Cities and counties impacted by these regulations will be responsible for determining projects to reduce the nitrogen loading into the springs and how to pay for it. At the time of the community meeting, the State still has not completed the final plans for the Wekiva area. As soon as it is available, my office can send you a copy. Please contact us at (407) 836-5850 or email@example.com any assistance.
Go here to find a pie chart identifying the nitrogen sources in the BMAP, my editorial on amendment one dollars and water quality, and lastly a map identifying the Primary Focus Area (PFA) for Wekiva.