Governor Jeb Bush signed The Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act into law on Tuesday, June 29, 2004, at Wekiva Springs State Park, in Apopka. The law authorizes building the Wekiva Parkway and provides protection to the Wekiva River system. The Act requires a comprehensive approach to protecting the Wekiva River system involving local governments, state agencies, and the St. Johns River Management District. The Act requires the Department of Health to address nitrogen reduction through appropriate onsite disposal standards.
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There will be detailed field sampling within the Wekiva Study Area (WSA) at a few conventional septic systems. The WSA boundary was defined by incorporating data from various contributing sources to the Wekiva River System. The question that this field work portion of the Wekiva project will address is how much nitrogen is transported to the groundwater by analyzing samples of septic tank effluent, in the saturated zone underneath a drainfield and in shallow groundwater. There is an increased level of uncertainty when measuring away from the source, as the actual source inputs (wastewater, fertilizer, etc.) are variable, but electrical conductivity as tracer and nitrogen isotope tests are expected to help differentiate between organic and inorganic nitrogen. This will aid the researchers in determining the relative inputs from the inorganic forms found in many commercial fertilizers versus the inorganic forms found in wastewater, livestock and pet wastes.
There will be a maximum of three systems assessed. Each site location will be within the boundaries of the WSA and will be chosen based on a comprehensive list of criteria that RRAC developed. The criteria include being able to reach the actual water table with the equipment, choosing a location within each of the three affected counties, having a public water supply, having a minimum lot size to allow for identification of the wastewater plume, etc. Once the field work has been completed, there will be a better understanding of what one septic system in the WSA contributes to the groundwater and whether this contribution is different from literature values.
This task will further discuss differences between nitrogen loading by different categories of septic systems (e.g. by applied nitrogen species, infiltrative surface location, drainage class, depth to saturated zone and soil organic content). The next part of this step is to then look at the different potential categories of contribution to come up with an estimate of overall loading.
In this task, the estimates from Task 2 will be compared with the amount of loading estimates from other sources (wastewater treatment facilities, residential fertilizers, commercial fertilizers, etc.) to determine what percentage of the nitrogen inputs are from septic systems.
This task is to recommend a range of cost effective solutions if contributions of nitrogen from onsite systems are found to be significant. RRAC has advised the Department staff to perform preliminary research for this task. Further results from the first three tasks will influence how this task will be completed. The approach will be to obtain cost information from each county, and research various strategies (i.e. recordkeeping, planning, performance, etc.)
Additional research information can be found at the Research Review and Advisory Committee (RRAC) web page.
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