BMAP -A Plan to Clean Up Our Water or Clean Out Our Pocketbooks?

It’s out and it’s expensive. It’s government, regulatory overreach at its worst. Florida springs are polluted with too much nitrogen from septic systems. Wekiva Springs is one of those polluted springs. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) promises to reduce nitrogen to “sustainable” levels.

Approximately 25,000 homeowners living in the Priority Focus Area (PFA) of the Wekiva Springs watershed in which to experiment are affected.
The BMAP, now enforceable by law, mandates the elimination of all conventional septic systems on lots of one acre or less in the PFA within the next 20 years.

Orange, Seminole, and Lake Counties must assess their territories in the PFA. Each county will decide which septic systems can be “remediated” by connecting to sewers or replacing them with Florida Department of Health (FDOH) approved systems. Counties have five years to complete their feasibility assessment.

If you are planning to build a new home in the PFA, the BMAP prohibits you from installing a conventional system. If there is no sewer connection available, you must choose a nitrogen-reducing treatment system from an FDOH approved list including:

1. a passive system using in-ground, nitrogen reducing “biofilters.”
2. a performance-based treatment system developed by DOH.
3. NSF-245-certified Aerobic Treatment Units

If you own a home with a conventional septic system and it can connect to an existing or planned sewer system, you must connect. Costs to connect are usually $20,000 per home.

If you own a home with a conventional septic system unsuitable for a sewer connection, you must replace your septic system with a FDOH approved option upon failure of your current system. Current installation costs: $20,000 to $22,000.

Once you have one of these systems, there are annual fees to FDOH, required maintenance contracts, and additional repair costs. These non-passive systems require electricity so, good luck when the electricity goes out.

Due to minimal testing, no one knows their longevity. Their reliability is also in question. One user recently paid $500 to replace one pump in his system after two years of use. Moreover, a 2013 study gave evidence that systems, once installed in homes, reduce half the amount of nitrogen promised by lab tests. Real-world testing and data show a properly working, passive system reduces nitrogen by 50 percent. The 2013 study showed the new systems often only reduced nitrogen by 33 per cent.
Hummmm? Replace my simple, passive system with a complicated, $20,000 system that removes less nitrogen than what I now have at no cost? Tell me this isn’t a government operation.

Nevertheless, FDEP hopes to soften this news by promising to pay for replacement costs beyond the cost of replacing a conventional system – currently approximately $7,000. That means taxpayers pay for the other $14,000. The owner pays for all other costs.

Changing out the septic systems of 20,000 homes will cost a staggering $500 M to $625 M. And this is just part of one BMAP area.

All BMAPs can be viewed at:
https://floridadep.gov/dear/water-quality-restoration/content/basin-management-action-plans-bmaps

So, what’s the point and where is the profit in all this new gadgetry and bureaucracy?

If it’s environmental protection, no one knows for sure because this whole plan to reduce nitrogen is based upon estimations, assumptions, and computer modeling.

If it’s profit, homeowners and taxpayers certainly will not profit in light the aforementioned expenses.

However, some will profit. Sure to profit are companies with membership in the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association and other new startup companies rushing to make their fortune. Interestingly, an industry lobbyist was on the BMAP committee that helped draft the plan. Also profiting will be the bureaucracies of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Health. Permitting fees, annual inspection fees, and other yet to be defined registrations will generate enormous income for these departments. As for the required annual inspections, DOH rules do not require testing the advanced systems to see if they are actually reducing nitrogen!   

Yet to be determined is the financial impact on the real estate market in the PFA’s. Will potential buyers still purchase homes requiring septic system replacement and new monthly bills? Will sellers face decreasing home values? And what about those living on fixed incomes? Some real estate agents have already stated the impact will be absolutely negative.

The 2016 Springs and Aquifer Protection Act is only beginning. If government expands this “protection” plan to all 2.5 M conventional septic systems in Florida, the economic impact to taxpayers will exceed $50 Billion. Bureaucrats approving this plan are unelected so, thank your elected officials who did approve it. The unintended consequences (or were they?) are becoming clearer. This plan may not clean up our water but, it is sure to clean out our pocketbooks.

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Dan Peterson

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