Upgrading secondary treatment of wastewater to advanced standards is an important and cost-effective strategy for reducing nutrient loading in surface waters.
Appropriate irrigation of landscapes and golf courses with reclaimed water can offset fertilizer application. However, there is little awareness of this benefit, and reclaimed water is typically applied in conjunction with synthetic fertilizer
Spills, emergency discharges, and overflows of treated and untreated sewage cause significant harm to environmental and human health. A proactive and comprehensive approach to preventing unplanned discharges should include inspection, maintenance, replacement, and upgrades of failing sanitary sewer infrastructure.
Notification and access to information about wastewater spills, emergency discharges, and overflows should be timely, standardized, and clearly conveyed so citizens and non-government organizations can evaluate short-term impacts and identify long-term chronic issues for remediation.
Disposal of inappropriate items such as baby wipes and kitchen grease down toilets and drains is a common cause of sewer blockages and overflows. Broken or leaking privately owned sewer lines are also a recurring problem, especially in older areas with aging infrastructure.
Properly sited and maintained conventional septic systems can reduce about 30% to 40% of nitrogen inputs. But all septic systems are not equal in their potential to impair surface water quality.
Understanding and quantifying the life-cycle costs associated with varying nitrate-removal techniques for varying site characteristics will inform local decision-making about existing and future septic system upgrades or conversions.
2.3 Improve knowledge about the location and status of septic systems and prioritize areas for upgrades or conversions
There are conflicting estimates of the number of septic systems in Sarasota County. Clarifying how many septic systems exist, where they are located, and their functional status is fundamental to managing their potential environmental impacts.
2.4 Require periodic inspection and maintenance of septic systems and develop incentive programs to facilitate compliance
Once a septic system is approved in Florida, ongoing inspection or maintenance is not required. Because septic systems can deteriorate over time, legislation that requires periodic inspection and maintenance is essential to ensuring they function properly to protect public health and the environment.
2.5 Deliver targeted education and incentives to improve operation and maintenance of septic systems and encourage upgrades for enhanced nutrient treatment
Regular septic system maintenance is economical compared to other costs of home maintenance and to central sewer fees. Education is needed to encourage proper maintenance of systems, along with incentives to upgrade to newer technologies with improved nutrient reduction.
Biosolids are a valuable byproduct of wastewater treatment that can be landfilled, spread on ranches and fields, or used as a fertilizer. However, the high concentration of nutrients in biosolids may contribute to water quality problems.
Because most biosolids are generated by municipal wastewater treatment facilities, emerging markets for biosolids products may offer economic and environmental benefits to communities.
Biosolids are transported from wastewater treatment facilities to processing and disposal locations around the state, making them a statewide issue.
Understanding the relative contribution of fertilizer to nutrient loading can help prioritize management strategies. Loads may reasonably be estimated through an approach that calculates nutrient budget coefficients based on inputs, uptake, and outflows of nutrients for differing land uses.
Publicly accessible data on the distribution and sale of fertilizer by category and by county is urgently needed to accurately estimate nutrient loading from fertilizer, assess compliance with fertilizer regulations, and track the success of educational efforts.
Sarasota County was among the first in the state to enact local restrictions on fertilizer use to protect water quality. The ordinance could be substantially strengthened by additional provisions to require point-of-sale educational signage on proper fertilizer use to promote greater awareness and compliance.
Lawn care standards imposed in deed-restricted communities can conribute to excess fertilizer use and water pollution. Educating Homeowner Associations about Florida-friendly landscape practices is an efficient way to maximize environmental benefits with limited educational resources.
Sarasota County has almost 6,000 acres of golf courses and athletic fields and a large number of professionally managed residential and commercial lawns and landscapes.
Sarasota County has a strong agricultural heritage founded on cattle ranching and now diversified into multiple commodities, including citrus, sod and ornamental plant nurseries
State law mandates that Sarasota and other large counties recycle 75% of their waste stream. Composting of yard waste contributes to that goal, but food waste is not collected or composted at large-scale.