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Where does the water go after it gets treated at the wastewater treatment plant?Water gets treated to a very high standard and monitored on a real-time basis. Water that is safe to use for public irrigation gets put into reuse. Water that fails testing gets re-treated. Replacing septic systems could supply over 250 million gallons per year of reuse water to Marco Island. The South Florida Water Management District has strengthened watering restrictions. Areas with reuse water have recently been allowed to continue irrigation where others have not.Why would I want to pay monthly fees for central sewer when using my septic tank is free?Your septic tank is not free; it should be inspected and pumped every three years. Fees for pumpouts and inspections range from $250 to over $500.- - -Why should I spend thousands of dollars on hooking up to a central sewer system?If your septic system has not had regular inspections and maintenance, it will probably fail. Replacement fees range from $8,000 to $12,000. These fees can double or triple if you need to replace your drainfield or remove the old system and replace it with a performance-based system.- - -My septic system works fine; why should I hook up to a central sewer?A septic tank works by letting solids sink to the bottom of a large tank and it lets foam and detergents float to the top. Water is released from somewhere in the middle. It goes from there into a series of pipes with holes in them to allow the water through. Water gets further treated by the sand in the drainfield.Current requirements for septic systems are for two feet of unsaturated soil between the bottom of the drainfield and the groundwater. However, in systems installed prior to 1983, the requirements ranged from only six to 12 inches of separation from the groundwater. Therefore, there is concern septic systems are polluting the groundwater, which eventually discharges into the canals.- - -Should we be concerned the Marco sewer system will fail during hurricanes or heavy rains?No. Sewer systems like Marcoâ€™s separate stormwater and wastewater and are much less likely to have bad spill events even in heavy weather than systems with combined flows. Problems can be quickly addressed and cleaned up.- - -If the septic tanks are polluting the canals, where is the evidence?Unfortunately, septic tanks are not the only source of bacteria polluting the canals. Fecal coliform bacteria are generated by a number of animals, as well as humans. In addition, nitrogen comes from not only septic tanks, but also from stormwater runoff. Elevated levels of both of these have been documented in Marco canals.- - -JOAN COLFER, M.D. is the director of the Collier County Health Department. JON IGLEHART is the district director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. CLARENCE TEARS is the director of Big Cypress Basin.
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