Environmental Bulletin

Florida’s Growing Septic Problem

An algal bloom caused by nutrient pollution, a byproduct of poorly functioning septic systems.

In the last year, residents of Florida have been bombarded with headlines about the risks that the Sunshine State’s 2.6 million septic systems pose. News organizations and state officials have woken up to the fact that “out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t mean “not a problem.” The low elevation state is inundated with water both above and below ground, and the porous limestone that comprises most of the state’s geology means that ground water, and the contaminants injected into it, travel relatively quickly. That is especially problematic considering that 90% of Florida’s drinking water is supplied from underground aquifers. The nutrient pollution shows up in surface water and the ocean, causing harmful algal blooms that imperil ecological and human health.

A diagram of a septic system and the impacted ground water. Florida Health

In the northern part of the state, Gainsville is coming to terms with the over 40,000 septic systems in the Alachua County. Besides polluting their local streams and creeks, many leach fields in low lying areas sit barely above the water table, practically in contact with the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies much of the state with drinking water.

Florida’s iconic springs are also contaminated by nitrogen pollution, which has been feeding algal blooms. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been conducting studies to determine the source of pollution. The study of Blue Spring’s basin in central Florida found that 23,000 densely clustered residential septic systems accounted for over 50% of the nitrogen input. The DEP and its basin management action plans have described septic systems as the “elephant in the room,” and are consideringoptions. This consists of a cost-benefit analysis of upgrading septic systems or municipal sewer infrastructure.

Miami-Dade county is seeing the brunt of the issues, as the region is home to over 100,000 septic systems. As the city rapidly expanded, municipal sewer was left behind, and new homes were built with septic systems. Sea level rise is threatening more than 60% of Miami’s septic systems, The ensuing rise in the water table will render leach fields ineffective, and higher likelihood floods could spread contaminated water throughout the region. In the meantime, the poorly performing septic systems are recharging the Biscayne Aquifer and, from which Miami draws its drinking water. With the pricetag of installing sewer infrastructure estimated at $50,000 per home, advanced treatment options may be the best answer for this immediate concern.

LooLoop® is a great solution to Florida’s wastewater treatment issue. SOSystems has developed the cost effective, durable, and high-performing BioFilter Cabinet that can be used to retrofit existing septic systems, cutting their output of harmful pollutants, such as nitrogen, by over 85%. This drastic reduction in contaminants minimizes reliance on leach fields and leads to cleaner discharge into surrounding groundwater. The system will be more resilient to flooding, since the leech field will contain only a fraction of the nitrogen and fecal coliform found in traditional septic systems.

The BioFilter Cabinet ships preassembled, so local installers can easy attach it to existing infrastructure to create the patented LooLoop®.  LooLoop® can also incorporated into new construction, optimizing your wastewater treatment and protecting your investment!

Contact us today to find out more.


Header image from Getty Images

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