Sewers? We don’t need no stinkin’ sewers!
Perhaps an apt opening could be “How I stopped worrying and learned to love septic systems.” The controversy that has arisen concerning the installation of sanitary sewers in the neighborhoods surrounding Spring Lake will continue even after the sewers are finally installed. Oh, they will be installed, but the current question is when and at what cost, because the when will largely determine the cost. For years various Charlotte County commissions kicked the so-called can down the road, especially during election years, and cared more about being elected than facing the issue of citizens’ health from urban septic systems.
Years ago, when the area was subdivided into small residential lots, the selling price of the properties was made attractive by not installing sanitary sewer lines. An urban landscape was created, but the developer treated the area as if it was rural where the only alternatives to sewage disposal are outhouses, cesspools or septic systems. Obviously the first two alternatives are unacceptable on their face, but the last, i.e., septic systems, was sold as an appropriate method to get rid of the sewage on these tiny lots. The buyers probably didn’t know better because there was no one interested in warning them.
The bill of goods was sold and people bought the lots for a song not realizing where they were headed down the road. In a nutshell the situation ended up being one of “pay me now or pay me later.” Now, years later, the “pay me later” is coming to fruition as preparations are being made to install the sanitary sewers which were not installed in this city environment up front.
There are those who are vehemently opposing the installation of the sewers claiming that the septic systems are just fine and city (county) sewers are not needed. Some claim that the septic systems are not polluting the canals and harbor, while others show that they are. Make no mistake! The issue of septic systems affects everyone in the county, especially those close to and those who use the waterways. It is time to face the issue squarely and admit that the central problem is the cost of the sewers and the pollution or lack of is a smoke screen to skirt the cost. Various approaches have been proposed to deal with the cost to the home owners, most of which are viable and will minimize the financial burden.
One approach is to run sewers line down the streets and hook up homes with older or defective septic systems and defer the hook up of newer and recently refurbished systems. No major maintenance work on existing systems should be permitted and all new construction on current vacant lots should require use of the sewer lines. In addition, no more septic systems could be installed where sewer lines exist.
This then raises the question of what is to be done where the vacant lots are small and there are no sewer lines. Perhaps the answer can be found in other parts of the country. Many areas require a minimum lot size before a septic system can installed, in some cases as much as two acres, and then only when no sewers are reasonably close. As a general rule septic systems are no longer permitted along navigable or recreational waterways, that is, lakes, rivers, streams, etc. The county should stop issuing building permits for these small lots until sewers can eventually be installed. Why not here, when this is common throughout the U.S.?
Why is it that such systems are allowed in Charlotte County? Because the “can” has been kicked down the road and prior commissioners have neglected their duty to all the people of the county. Watch how the commissioners vote and you will see whether they are concerned about the best interest of the citizens or whether they are more concerned with their personal agendas and careers.
Anthony J. Biell
August 14, 2013