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CCP reviews Wastewater Alternative Study report

July 27, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Presented with the final report on the Captiva Island Wastewater Alternative Study, the Captiva Community Panel discussed the findings and came up with follow-up questions at its July meeting.

Conducted by TKW Consulting Engineers on behalf of Lee County and the panel, the study was intended to assess the feasibility of alternative wastewater collection and treatment systems suitable for Captiva based on current land use and taking into consideration long-term impacts and future costs.

Panel Member Jay Brown, chair of the Wastewater Committee, explained on July 10 that he had an initial meeting with county officials to review the report and had already posed some questions.

Article Photos

The Captiva Community Panel discusses at its July regular meeting the final report on the Captiva Island Wastewater Alternative Study, which was conducted by TKW Consulting Engineers.

"I have two concerns with this," he said.

Brown questioned how the panel would garner support from voters for the most feasible scenario outlined in the report for a central sewer system, one of the alternatives examined as part of the study. He explained that he felt details pertinent for owners of conventional septic systems was missing.

According to the study, there are 378 developed properties outside of the areas served by the four existing wastewater treatment plants that cover South Seas, 'Tween Waters, Sunset Captiva and Captiva Shores. Of those, 11 are aerobic treatment units and 70 are performance based treatment systems.

It leaves an estimated 297 properties with conventional septics - 79 percent. Of those, about 73 or 25 percent are not permitted nor monitored by the Department of Health due to being grandfathered in.

"Whatever we recommend needs to make sense to those people," Brown said.

He also questioned the specifics outlined in the study for a Captiva-Sanibel partnership if voters were to approve the central sewer system option, which Brown voiced concern for with county officials.

According to the report, the "most feasible scenario" for centralized wastewater collection and treatment is a system of partial on-island treatment - maintaining the existing collection and treatment system at South Seas - with off-island treatment provided through a partnership with Sanibel.

Under the scenario, Captiva would deal directly with Sanibel for the service.

"We could create a municipal taxing authoring under Lee County," Brown said of an alternative discussed during his meeting with county officials.

He explained that the county would cover the costs to install and implement the system, then Captiva property owners would pay back the county via the taxing authority; Sanibel would be a co-supplier.

"This, to me, seemed like an ideal solution," Brown said. "Plus, we're not beholden to the whims of Sanibel in the future."

Outside of his concerns, he noted that the study effectively outlines the current situation.

"It does a good job describing all of the wastewater treatment that is in effect now on Captiva," he said.

According to the report, the details for the island areas are as follows:

- Village: Sunset Captiva and Captiva Shores served by existing plants; five aerobic treatment units and 39 performance based treatment systems out of 219 parcels, so advanced systems equal 20 percent

- 'Tween Waters: 'Tween Waters served by existing plant; two aerobic treatment units and 11 performance based treatment systems out of 47 parcels, so advanced systems equal 28 percent

- Estates: One aerobic treatment unit and 29 performance based treatment systems out of 112 parcels, so advanced systems equal 27 percent

- South Seas: South Seas served by existing plant

In its study, TKW looked at maintaining the status quo on the island; phasing out conventional septics and promoting a transition to the advanced systems, with more rigorous monitoring and enforcement of permit requirements for properties; and implementing centralized wastewater collection and treatment.

As for maintaining the status quo, it noted that as the grandfathered conventional septics are replaced they will have to be permitted and that conventional septics are cost effective in the long term. In terms of disadvantages, it cited the lack of monitoring, environmental impact of nutrients and sea-level rise.

For the option of phasing out conventional septics and promoting advanced systems, TKW reported that there are some performance based treatment systems on-island that meet the advanced criteria.

"However, even the most advanced, regulated, and properly operating and maintained Advanced Secondary PBTS (performance based treatment systems) OSTDS (onsite treatment and disposal systems) systems have limited capacity to remove the nutrients in domestic wastewater," the report states. "Therefore to be comparable with the water quality benefits of centralized systems, this alternative assumes a transition over time to the use of the best available onsite technology."

The report outlines the best available technology system, its costs and potential implementation by property owners. In doing so, the study finds that the enforcement aspect would be difficult.

"In summary, an advanced and aggressive program as used in the Florida Keys for implementing AWT level PBTS onsite systems would require action of the state legislature and participation of a public utility to manage and implement. This scenario is very unlikely for Captiva," it states. "Septic tank replacement on Captiva Island is not likely to be mandated as it was in the Florida Keys. Any such program on Captiva Island would be voluntary."

As for implementing centralized wastewater collection and treatment, the study examined three scenarios: treating all wastewater on-island; treating all wastewater off-island with Sanibel; and treating a portion of the wastewater off-island with Sanibel, leaving some of existing plants in operation.

It found that constructing a wastewater treatment plant on Captiva did not appear to be reasonable, as well as found that Sanibel emphasized flow levels as a concern in terms of serving the entire island.

For the partial off-island treatment, the study outlined leaving South Seas alone and connecting the Village and 'Tween Waters to Sanibel, with the option to connect the Estates to the system also.

"Because of the higher cost of serving the Estates area with a central system, it is suggested that the Estates Service Area could also be addressed by a program with comparable water quality benefits by promoting conversion of all properties to the use of advanced OSTDS technology with nutrient removal," it states. "The advanced OSTDS are reported by the FKAA to cost between $27,000 and $38,000, including installation of a shallow effluent disposal well, depending on the property."

Brown noted that the partial scenario is the recommended one of the three.

"It identifies what TKW believes would be the best plan for a central sewer system - if that's what the community wants to do," he said. "That's the basic concept of what central sewer would like look for us - if we wanted to go that route."

Brown noted that sea-level rise could be an issue in the future for the plant at South Seas. However, there should no cost difference if South Seas is added to the system now or later down the road.

"By not having South Seas now, we're not doing anything shortsighted," he said.

Vice President Mike Borris explained that he resides in the Village in an area served by one of the existing plants. He said residents are happy with it, but he believes there is interest for central sewer.

"There is a strong sentiment in the Village for sewers," Borris said.

After the panel meeting, the Wastewater Committee held an impromptu meeting to come up with an organized list of questions and concerns to bring forward to TWK and the county for the panel.

"I have a number of questions that I want answered before we go forward," Brown said.



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