Duval County is located in the northeast region of Florida. It covers 918 square miles including all land and water, is home to 954,454 people, and contains two of the largest Naval Bases in the southeast U.S. The 2014-2018 U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 5 year-estimates reports that the population of Duval County is 60.3% White, 29.6% Black, and 9.3% Hispanic. The median household income in Duval County is $53,473 and 15.5% of the population is below the poverty line. The median age in Duval County is 36.1 years old.
Under Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act, every two years each state must identify its impaired” waters, including estuaries, lakes, rivers, and streams that do not meet their designated uses and are not expected to improve within the subsequent two years. Florida's 303(d) list identifies hundreds of water segments that fall short of water quality standards. The three most common water quality concerns are fecal coliform, nutrients, and oxygen-demanding substances. In Duval County, 75 local tributaries are considered impaired for fecal coliform.
The purpose of this project is to implement load reduction strategies, specific to Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems (OSTDS), to reduce the potential for fecal coliform impact in Lower St. Johns River Basin tributaries. OSTDS were deemed by the environmental engineering firm Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan (PBS&J) to be one of the most probable sources of fecal coliform. Approximately 1/3 of Duval's residents and commercial properties rely on OSTDS for sewage disposal and this project focused on the 75 local tributaries considered impaired for fecal coliform.
Potential contaminants that degrade the quality of surface and groundwater resources as a result of septic system failure include disease causing bacteria, infectious viruses, household chemicals, and nutrients (nitrates and phosphates). These contaminants present a public health threat to the community. This project provided registered septic tank contractors, certified plumbers, inspectors, professional engineers, stakeholders, and members of the public with the most current available information pertaining to failing septic systems that may be contributing fecal coliforms to the St. Johns River and its tributaries including, but not limited to:
Basin Management Action Plans
Nonpoint Source Pollution Sources
Basin Hydrology/Water Quality Trends
Hydric Soil Indicators
Septic Maintenance and Use
Performance Based Treatment Systems
Septic Tank Enforcement Projects
Results and Outcomes
The goals and objectives of this project were achieved by focusing on pollution reduction strategies through septic system education and public outreach events at community health fairs, training workshops, town hall meetings, and environmental symposiums. Fourteen (14) education and public outreach events have occurred providing educational material and instruction to over 1,500 participants. The water quality impacts are based on several fundamental assumptions about the pollutants targeted, modeling approaches, waterbody responses, and natural processes. However, it is difficult to determine quantitative load reductions expected from the project's management actions to decrease fecal coliform due to a lack of literature values and high variability. Therefore, the benefits of these management actions, such as education and public outreach initiatives, are evaluated on a qualitative basis matching elimination, reduction, and prevention activities to known or potential sources.
Public Health Impacts
The effects of education and public awareness should result in an increased number of homeowners having their septic systems pumped out and inspected on a regular basis, more efficient water usage, a decrease in hazardous chemicals being discarded into septic systems, and better maintenance of OSTDS in general. It is expected that these effects will be observed long after the end of this project which should aid in further reductions of fecal coliform bacteria from OSTDS.