Homosassa River boaters

The Homosassa River is lined by homes on both sides of the river. The fragile ecosystem is protected but some feel more protections are necessary.

Efforts are moving forward to remove pollution-causing septic systems on local waterways and replace them with a more environmentally friendly central sewer.

Citrus County Wastewater Treatment Feasibility Analysis members met virtually last week to discuss the most cost-effective options for septic-to-sewer conversions in two watersheds identified by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) as being areas of most concern: Crystal River/Kings Bay and Chassahowitzka-Homosassa Springs.

The FDEP’s Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) determined those two springs have been affected by increased nitrogen levels and require additional protections to ensure their conservation and restoration.

The FDEP said septic tanks contribute up to 42% of the current nitrogen pollution in the district’s springs, which can cause algae growth detrimental to aquatic plants and wildlife.

The FDEP is footing the bill for a wastewater feasibility study that will determine which pollution reduction or remediation method is most effective.

In spots where it would not make economic sense to install a sewer, the report would recommend homeowners upgrade their existing septic system to a more advanced one. Grants would likely be available for that purpose.

“We’re looking at the impact of septic systems and where it’s most cost-effective to provide sewer,” said Ken Cheek, director of water resources for Citrus County. “If it’s not feasible to take septics offline, then we would do higher-level treatment to the (existing) septic systems.”

Ken Cheek, director of water resources for Citrus County, who gave a presentation at last week’s meeting, said the report is about 90% completed. The purpose of the meeting was to solicit input from homeowners affected by the septic-to-sewer initiative. 

Cheek said the group heard from 10-15 people, mostly homeowners during the virtual meeting.

“Conversion to sewers is not a complete answer to the environmental issues but it is a good start, especially at the headsprings of a first magnitude spring,” Homosassa resident Don Hiers wrote in an email to the Chronicle.

Cheek said the next steps will be to:

• Finalize the project segment, project phase, and overall projects costs.

• Post a second online public questionnaire.

• Hold a second public meeting

• Develop a funding and financing plan based on the project cost information in the report

• Present the final report to county commissioners for approval. 

The next virtual meeting of the Citrus County Wastewater Treatment Feasibility Analysis will be in March, at a time and date to be determined. 

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.