Captiva panel debate sewer over septic

Captiva panel debate sewer over septic

Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander June 17, 2015 issue

Conversations continued at the Captiva Community Panel last week regarding how viable it would be to change from septic systems to a sewer system on Captiva.

Captiva Community Panel members Dave Jensen and Jay Brown, among others, began discussions as part of a committee, which led to inviting Lee County Assistant County Manager Doug Meurer to the June meeting.

“Doug’s visit in June was a starting point to begin the process of fact finding, so a well informed discussion of the pros and cons of a sewer system can be held,” Ken Gooderham, Captiva Community Panel administrator, said.

In order for a change from septic to sewer to occur, Meurer said, a technical engineering consultant would have to take a look at what kind of system would work best for Captiva. From there, he said a plan would be formulated on how to move forward with the project.

“From start of design to completion of a project, it would be at least five years,” Meurer said if Captiva were to move forward with a sewer system.

Although specifics have not been explored yet, Captiva has the option of hooking into a pipe that runs into the City of Sanibel’s sewer lines.

Meurer told the panel about two possibilities that could be used for Captiva, a gravity sewer line or a vacuum system.

The gravity sewer line takes waste flow out of a home into a pipe on the street. The water runs downhill in a pipe that typically reaches a certain depth before entering a pump station to be taken to a different height.

The vacuum system, which Meurer said is more suited for an island, is a smaller pipe line that draws water through with a vacuum.

Some figures $10,000 to $15,000 were shared as examples of how much it might cost to implement the change in utilities for each homeowner and business owner.

“Every community is going to be unique,” Meurer said. “It depends on equipment and distance the pipes have gone to determine the cost. Whatever the cost of the project, single family units would pay the same assessment. Businesses would be assessed on the amount of flow they generate.”

There was also information shared regarding three different mechanisms Captiva may be able to use to implement a sewer system.

Meurer said the community can self impose an assessment necessary to build the infrastructure for a sewer system through the Municipal Services Business Unit.

“When established, there is a petition that goes out,” he said. “Fifty percent, plus one homeowner, has to approve the establishment of that business unit.”

Another option would include an existing utility company taking over Captiva for their service area. Meurer said he is looking into this option to see if it would require more than approval from the board.

The third option would fall under Captiva establishing their own utility system that they would manage. This option is also being further researched.

Meurer shared an example regarding when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection could step in and issue a consent order to mandate a change. He said the Keys were having some water quality issues that were determined to be a concern about health and the well-being of residences, so a consent order was issued.

Discussions were held during the meeting that there are no requirements for septic tanks to be checked on a regular schedule for homeowners. Businesses on the other hand, are required to have their septic tanks checked.

Gooderham said the panel had looked at ways to regulate septic systems on the island, or at least ensure they were being maintained properly.

“However, since septic systems come under the purview of the state Department of Health, the county is reluctant, or even unable, to support adoption of any meaningful regulations to spur and document maintenance efforts in county rules,” he said.

Captiva began discussions about a sanitary sewer system in the 1900s and the Captiva Community Panel had its first conversation in 2004 due to plans of expanding the City of Sanibel’s treatment capacity by adding the Wulfert plant, Gooderham said.

In 2007, further discussion was had after a small treatment plant on the north end of Sanibel began having problems, which resulted in closures of beaches on both islands.

“At the same time Captivans were debating whether to pursue underground utilities, electrical lines, so the option of a larger project that would include sewer lines was discussed,” Gooderham said.

With the closure of the beaches, the panel decided to look further into water quality issues on the island. A two-year analysis was conducted by SCCF of island water quality for near shore and groundwater.

Gooderham said the study found that the near shore pollutants spike was tied more to rainfall than island population. He said the study also revealed that septic systems still accounted for the highest contribution of nitrogen to the overall load.

“Slowing runoff from the island could offer great possibilities to improve near shore water quality, but the nitrogen introduced into the ecosystem from septic systems, even those functioning properly, was a pollution contributor,” Gooderham said.

In both instances, public support was not sufficient, he said, which resulted in the issue not moving forward.

“As part of a community survey done in 2013 by the panel to help set priorities and issues to be pursued, sanitary sewers again popped up as an item of interest in an open-ended array of choices,” Gooderham said. “The interest was reinforced in community workshops held in 2014 as part of the ongoing Captiva Plan update.”

The language of the plan began taking shape, which triggered the panel to begin setting priorities for its next efforts that were addressed in spring 2015. Gooderham said short, medium and long-range priorities were established at the May 2015 meeting.

Extremely inspirational

She did it again . . . she finished another race . . .  and she continues to be inspirational to all of us who watch from the sidelines.

Jen finished her first triathlon on Captiva Island in SW Florida this morning, beating the time she set for herself, beating it by 13 minutes. I could feel her excitement through the messages we sent back and forth. I could feel her sense of accomplishment – she swam in the Gulf of Mexico, pedaled away during the bike portion of the race and finished it all by running through that finish line.

She can now add another race to her scrapbook of achievements.

Her story is incredible, one I love sharing with others because she completely transformed her lifestyle and lost 137 pounds – all from exercising and changing her eating habits. I love watching that person’s expression as they hear her journey and share the same excitement for what she has accomplished.

Jen’s story goes to show that once you put your mind to something you can achieve that goal, you can achieve that goal beyond your wildest dreams.

What has unfolded since she lost all that weight is incredible . . .

When I worked at the Cape Coral Daily Breeze, I included Jen’s story in an article I wrote because I am extremely proud of her, proud to know such an amazing, determined woman.

An excerpt from the Dec. 3, 2010 article in the Cape Coral Daily Breeze:  “Full marathon to step off from Cape Harbour on Dec. 12”

The Mangrove Marathon holds a “special meaning” for one Fort Myers resident,  Jen, because almost two years ago she made a complete lifestyle change that led her to losing 137 pounds, or half of her body weight.

She explained that it is special because it is “a matter of days between the race and the date that I started with my dietician” two years ago.

With her new lifestyle, came a new-found passion of running that really took off last September.

“It is so therapeutic, physically and mentally,” Jen said. “It makes you feel so good and it burns a lot of calories.”

She decided to register for her first organized run last November for the Veterans Day 5k after training for about a month. She explained that after she finished the 5k she “definitely got the bug” for running and decided to register for a half marathon in Naples last January after the women at the gym told her she could do it.

Jen did not do any specific training for the half marathon, but wanted to try it and see what type of results she would achieve. Although it was a “really tough” 13.1 miles, she decided to begin training for another half marathon in March.

“I shaved 14 minutes off my time for that one,” she said, adding that she was much better prepared.

The idea of trying her first marathon began to seep into her thoughts after completing two half marathons, but she did not want to travel to Orlando or Fort Lauderdale to participate. Over the summer, she began hearing rumors that a marathon was going to be held in the area. Once Jen found out for certain that a marathon was being held in Cape Coral, she registered and began her four months of training.


I went to Jen’s first marathon, stood at the finish line with Ed, Jason’s dad, waiting for her to come around the bend.

I remember the anticipation . . .

I remember us watching the path waiting for Jen . . .

I remember a smile instantly crossing my face as she came into view . . .

It was exciting for me to see her cross the finish line, to witness the completion of her first marathon. The best part was watching Ed run the last little bit with Jen as she finished that race. I took quite a few pictures of this amazing accomplishment, which was later turned into a Christmas present.

There is no stopping Jen, she’s constantly signing up for new races and taking on new adventures.

Jen you are extremely inspirational. Every time I lace up my running shoes I think of you and everything you have accomplishment . . . every finish line you have crossed. I hope one day I will sign up for my first 5k and see where my adventures take me.

I am proud of you, proud to know such a determined woman, one that continues to kick butt in everything you do.

I look forward to hearing about your next race . . .