Leaking septic tanks causing concerns in Charlotte County

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — On Thursday, concerns about septic tank leakage into rivers and ports in North Port drew the attention of Charlotte County water quality leaders.

A joint meeting was held between Charlotte County and the City of North Port at the Murdock Administration Center in Port Charlotte. The commissioners discussed how to clean up these pollutants in North Port, which could flow downstream into Charlotte County.

Charlotte County’s water quality manager Brandon Moody said in the past that the county had a similar problem when traces of an artificial sweetener — which doesn’t break down in human urine — were found in surface water (places like rivers and harbors).

On Thursday, the city of North Port said they plan to look for it, too.

I asked Moody, does that mean there’s urine and feces from human bodies in the surface water?

“Not necessarily,” Moody said.

Moody said the main focus is on nutrient overload leaching from these septic tanks – which he says can cause algal blooms in waterways, but,

“If a septic tank is failing you completely, then you could potentially have bacterial compromise as well,” Moody said.

During the joint meeting, Moody said that although North Port is in Sarasota County, both areas share essentially the same waterways — into which older septic tanks could leak pollutants.

“Both North Port’s Big Slough, which flows into the Myakka River, which then flows into Charlotte Harbor, and the Peace River, which also flows into the eastern portion of the port,” Moody said during Thursday’s meeting.

According to Moody, Charlotte County has removed over 2,500 septic tanks in the past 10 years and converted them to a centralized sewer system.

Elizabeth Wong, the city of North Port’s stormwater manager, said they are looking for artificial sweeteners found in surface water that are carried in urine.

“The Canal Creek programme, which started just last year, we’ve been monitoring what’s coming into the North Harbor and it’s interesting. Things are coming into the north port,” Wong said.

According to Moody, Charlotte County has worked closely with North Port to help them study the number of pollutants in North Port’s waterways.

“Their staff and our staff collaborated quite a bit on these processes — like the county did — gave them our research and work — which they then took for their own outreach,” Moody said.

A team effort Nancy Gallinaro, director of North Port Utilities, said she was grateful for the joint meeting.

“Coming out here and seeing this is really encouraging to me because I was in Portland where I served on the Estuary Committee for eight years. The regionalized approach is really the way for us to protect, conserve and even restore our waterways,” Gallinaro said.

Wong said they had just started surveying their waterways and planned to fully present their results in a year.

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