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Water-Related News

Going septic to sewer: Pine Hills receives grant money to protect environment

In an effort towards overall neighborhood improvement, Pine Hills is working to upgrade several homes and offices from septic to sewer thanks to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) grant. The goal is two-fold: protect the Wekiva River Basin from septic tank leakage and create redevelopment opportunities along Pine Hills Road.

“One of the glaring issues facing the entire improvement district is the lack of infrastructure, but specifically wastewater,” said Sam Weekley, executive director, Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District. “This grant money will help us achieve our goal of getting septic tanks off 173 parcels and replace them all with centralized wastewater.”

Eighty-five percent of homes and offices in Pine Hills were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and all had individual septic tanks. Over the years, as pumping stations emerged, most of the homes and businesses were able to hook up to Orange County Utilities and a centralized wastewater system. But there are 173 parcels still on old septic tanks, which is an environmental issue because Pine Hills is part of the Little Wekiva Watershed (part of the Wekiva River Basin) — a protected area.

“All septic tanks eventually leak, and in Pine Hills they run right into the Wekiva River,” explained Weekley. “The DEP agrees that wastewater management and runoff are the biggest environmental issues in the state of Florida. We need to replace these old septic tanks before they cause serious harm to local ecosystems.”

Weekley has been working with Orange County Utilities on receiving grant money from both the DEP and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). Of the $41 million awarded to Orange County by the DEP, Pine Hills received $4.3 million; Weekley is working towards getting an additional $2.15 million from the DEO (or elsewhere) to complete the project.