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
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. …