Water Pollution Raises Concerns

Article excerpt

High levels of pollution found in surface-water quality tests in

Ponte Vedra could trigger an advisory from the county health

department, Municipal Services District officials learned

Monday.

Homes in the district often have trouble with sewage backup

during periods of heavy rain, and septic tanks have been

suspected as a source of high levels of fecal coliform detected

in past studies of lagoon water.

Last year, the district initiated a project to study the

possibility of bringing sewers to about 700 homes in the

district where the predominant form of sewage treatment is

septic systems. If the sewer lines are built, most residents

with septic tanks would be required to connect.

Many homeowners, upset because each household would be charged

an estimated $9,000 for sewer construction plus additional

hookup expenses, have questioned the need to convert to sewers

and asked that new water studies be done.

At Monday's meeting, Trustee Hutch Stevens reported results of

water-quality tests performed last month. The results indicated

that surface-water samples exceeded regulatory levels. This

means the water is unsafe for recreational use and the

maintenance of a wellbalanced population of fish and wildlife.

The maximum allowed coliform count for a one-time grab sample

is 2,400 colonies per 100 milliliters, and an acceptable fecal

count should not exceed 800 colonies per 100 milliliters on any

one day. Department of Health tests done in the lagoons between

Solana Road and Corona Road showed a total coliform count as

high as 9,000 and a fecal count at 2,200 in one of the samples.

Additional laboratory tests were requested by the district for

ditches in the Seaview Park area. Samples taken after a heavy

February rain showed counts as high as 600 for fecal matter and

8,000 for coliform. The higher counts came from locations near

septic tanks and drain fields, Stevens said.

However, in the most recent tests taken north of Solana Road,

San Juan Drive and Ponte Vedra Circle, only four of 26 samples

exceeded a fecal count of 800, said Don Hallman, environmental

director with the County Health Unit.

About half of the first samples exceeded standards because of

the heavy rain and high water table. Health advisories are

issued whenever there is a lot of high water to let parents know

that children shouldn't play in the water, he said.

"The old in-ground septic systems are a potential source for

contamination, especially when the groundwater is high because

they can't treat effluent," Hallman said. "Those old systems

ideally should be either upgraded or sewers run. …