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It’s a long time tactic of the press to distract the public from huge hot-button issues and failures of the government by offering up a scapegoat, even taking it to the extent of outright lying. If you didn’t already know, the politics involved in our media are extraordinary, with most of a publication’s advertising dollars influencing the “freedom of the press”. If you’ve been following any of the articles throughout the state of Florida regarding the water quality issues and Lake Okeechobee releases, you’ll find that the discussion has drudged up all sorts of conversation about how we’re disposing of our effluent (partially treated wastewater) from municipal water treatment facilities. The latest distraction tactic has my blood boiling. It’s an article blaming a massive fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon on septic systems. That article calls out poorly maintained septic systems as the cause of the fish kill. There are so many reasons this just isn’t the case. Let me explain why the government is using your lack of knowledge to influence the press into publishing distraction tactics.

One of the most important aspects of this article is the simple math. It’s upsetting to know that this scientist is omitting important pieces of information and focusing on the wrong ones. The statistics received from the Port Saint Lucie utilities department tell us that 18,664 active residential septic systems exist in the PSL area. However, the article also tells us that more than 50,000 sanitary sewer customers exist, which makes it clear that the majority of the wastewater in that area is coming from central sewer plants. The article goes on to discuss the 600,000 septic tanks along the watershed route of the Indian River Lagoon. In all these numbers they never connect their theory on exactly how much water is “leaking” into the lagoon. 

Do me a favor: go look at a map. Consider the size of a home. Then look at a map of the state of Florida and look at Lake Okeechobee. THEN I want you to to consider these numbers:

  • In the entire state there are 6.5 million developed parcels, 4 million of which are serviced by publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) or municipal wastewater facilities.
  • Our POTWs treat 1.5 billion gallons of water, 960 million of which are discharged through ocean outfalls. 64% of all the water treated by our facilities goes into either our waterways or deep injection wells.
  • The department of health has estimated only 2.6 million septic systems in the state of Florida.
  • These systems treat 520 million gallons of water per day. All of which goes back into surficial aquifers. The process, with a well-maintained septic system, is comprehensive – using natural biology to separate solids, filter out pathogens and then distribute the effluent water (the same water that gets dumped directly into waterways by POTWs), throughout a drainfield where the soil further filters out even further, eliminating additional microbes and bacteria.

So, knowing these numbers, you tell me how you think it’s a logical conclusion to say that 30% of all the septic systems in the entire state are along the Indian River Lagoon? Even if that were the case, that percentage pales in comparison to the number of residents on central sewer whose effluent wastewater goes directly into the lagoon.

Let’s take this a step further and explore the MOST staggering statistics about Lake Okeechobee:

  • At the peak of Lake Okeechobee releases, the government was dumping 4.9 billion gallons of water per day into the St. Lucie River.

We reached out to the reporter that wrote this story via e-mail and asked her for the data that LaPointe (a career Septic enemy) provided in his study. We received no response despite her direct quote in the story saying she was happy to provide it:

“Last November LaPointe presented the results of a study Martin County commissioned FAU’s Harbor Branch to do, “2015 Martin County Watershed to Reef Septic Study.” (Unfortunately, I am unable to attach it below — it’s too large for SSN’s format. If you want to read it, email me and I’ll send it to you.)”

The kicker here? The Florida Chamber has launched a “bottom line” public affairs program with LaPointe front and center, helping to “educate” the public on the many many sources of pollution to our water (“including septic tanks”).

We’ve seen it firsthand in Lee County with Cape Coral. Over the years septic systems have been forced into replacement by cities and municipalities looking to regain some income. The government is trashing our water in every possible way and then finger pointing at septic systems, who process a minuscule percentage of the wastewater throughout our state.

Lake Okeechobee releases started in February. This incident happened at the end of March. Who do you think is responsible for this fish kill?

Residents of the state of Florida: you’re being had.

What are you going to do about it?


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