Island Sewer System
Cooper’s statement in the MITA newsletter that more sewers
aren’t needed yet on Marco Island is interesting.
His reason for recommending no action on the sewers is
very simple: the
water in the canals isn’t bad enough yet.
raises several questions – including the question of what
standards Art was using to determine how much pollution we
could tolerate in our canals before we did anything, and how
much lead time we would need to make sure that the canals
didn’t degrade to a point below Art’s standards of
doing research for my reply to Art’s “canal plan” for
the island, I found out that the City was already pursuing the
STEP program to ease the pollution problem on the island by
allowing each homeowner to hook his septic system up to a
sewer system if he so desired.
found out the good and bad points of the STEP system, and
reported them to you. I
noted that you would pay NOTHING if you decided to keep
your septic system as is, and would pay about $3300.00 to
convert and then about $12/mo “extra” if you converted to
a sewer/septic system. If
you didn’t convert your sewage system, the buyer of
your home would have to convert and pay the $3300.00 “impact
fee” when he did.
As each home converted, the pollution threat to our
canals would be lessened.
But how real is the threat of pollution?
Should we take action now, or wait until we detect
says that “island-wide sanitary sewers have not yet been
addressed by the (Five Year Comprehensive) Plan.”
Is he right?
65% of the homes on the island are now on septic tanks.
There are still many homes to be built.
The sewage problem will continue to increase as more
and more people move onto the island.
Are the canals threatened?
you know, the storm drains collect water runoff from yards,
driveways, streets, swales and other surfaces of the island.
That water then drains directly into the canals.
No problem if the water is “clean.”
But if that water becomes polluted, the canals may not
be able to handle the pollution – and will become polluted.
The “effluent” from the drain fields (“leach
lines”) might indirectly become a part of this discharge –
and as more and more septic tanks are installed the chances of
that happening become greater and greater.
So how long do we wait before we begin to do something?
Cooper, writing in the MITA newsletter, says that
“Island-wide sanitary sewers have not yet been addressed by
the (City’s Five-Year Comprehensive) Plan . . .” This
isn’t true. The
City has addressed this issue in the Plan – and in
some detail. Pages
33 – 36 are titled “Sanitary Sewer Sub-Element,” and
deal exclusively with the sewer plans for the island.
That sub-element of the Plan is followed immediately by
the “Stormwater Management Sub-Element,” since the two are
tied so closely together.
City’s Comprehensive Plan for the island is very
sewer and storm water sub-elements are both part of the
“Infrastructure Element,” which includes Potable Water,
Sewers, Storm Water, Solid Waste, Aquifer Recharge, and other
items. When Russ
Colombo tells you he’s going to keep the city in handcuffs,
and not allow “too much” capital spending, you should ask
yourselves how much “too much” is – and then ask
yourselves if you want Russ Colombo and MITA dictating “how
much” can be done. Can
you blame Russ for looking for loopholes like Section 6.02?
He knows as well as you do that if his rhetoric is
followed the island will deteriorate and his property value
will be hurt just like yours will.
can’t blame either Russ or Art Cooper for using Section 6.02
as a loophole – but do we want our island run by using
loopholes while we all spout our “anti-tax” rhetoric, or
do we want responsible government? Fortunately,
there are other governments besides the City of Marco Island
– and we may be saved from ourselves.
there is the State of Florida.
Governor Bush recently lauched a state-wide study of
septic tank pollution. It
looks like we aren’t the only ones who are worried, folks.
The State of Florida has between 2 and 3 million septic
tanks state-wide, and our state government is concerned enough
to begin a state-wide study of the problem using several state
the State Dept. of Community Affairs, the State Dept. of
Environmental Protection, the State Dept. of Health, and Water
Management Districts throughout the state are involved.
The “study” will eventually turn into mandated
the Federal Level we have the “Clean Water Act,”
which includes a program called the “National
Pollution Discharge Elimination System,” or “NPDES.”
Phase I began in 1991, and was targeted at the
industrial pollution discharge into our rivers and other
bodies of water. Phase
II began a few months ago.
It deals with, among other things, storm water
discharge and the effluent from septic tanks that might be a
part of that discharge.
problem on the island is not the septic tanks themselves.
The problem is soil saturation by the “effluent”
that is drained off the top of your septic tank and then
“leached out” into the soil of your yard.
Both the state and the federal governments are coming,
folks. Do we want
to be ready for them, or do we want to follow Art’s plan and
wait until the water quality in our canals has “degraded to
such an extent to require this action?”
hope we don’t stop the City from implementing STEP (if we
can get Florida Water to go along with it).
It won’t cost you anything if you decide to
stay on your septic tank.
Your buyer will have to pay for conversion.
But the longer we dither over this, the more homes will
be built with septic tank systems rather than sewer hookups.
enact the City’s “sewer plans,” then new homes will be
built in accordance with our “sewer specs.”
This, plus the “turnover” of homes on the island
will greatly decrease the threat of pollution to our canals
– and those of you already on septic systems who have been
“grandfathered in” can relax – you don’t have to do
State and National governments have their agendas – but what
is our City doing? Well,
the City just put in a program to monitor waste water on the
island. It checks
canals, waste (storm) water discharge, septic tank areas,
waterway tidal exchanges, and sewered areas for Total Coliform,
Fecal Coliform and Total Nitrogen (Nitrate/Nitrite) levels.
Standards have been adopted from other agencies,
notably the F.A.C.
may not know the results of this program for some time.
At that time, we may discover that Art’s standards
have already been reached – or the canals may still be
clean. Once again
– are you sure you want to tolerate pollution in your
canals? If so,
then how much will you tolerate – and for how long, before
you decide to do something?
And when you finally decide to do something, will the
Federal and State governments already be here – with their
guide-lines on what you now must do because you
weren’t responsible enough to do anything to begin with?
you think they’ll care when you complain that you couldn’t
negotiate with Florida Water because your “ace in the
hole,” the threat of condemnation, was just an empty threat
due to the spending cap - and the utility laughed in your
face? Or do you
think the State and Federal governments will also laugh at you
and tell you to get on with it – and clean up your mess.
Are you sure you want to wait for Art?
Are you sure you want to “handcuff” your city?
is an old union negotiator, and I enjoy watching him work.
He has no illusions about who his enemy is – and his
speeches from the podium are textbook examples of union
speech contains at least one threat, very skillfully and
politely delivered. The
council is listening – and they’re getting the message.
I’ve worked for some real masters of the art, and
I’ve seen the companies cave over and over again.
Sometimes they caved when they had us “on the
ropes” and didn’t realize it.
I loved working for these men, and I loved watching
them get every nickel they could out of the company.
But now Russ is working against me – and the
rest of you.
tough – and he won’t quit until he squeezes everything he
can from the
that the city doesn’t even know is going on.
I had to bet on a “winner,”
I’d bet on Russ – not the City.