FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 18, 2014
DEP BEGINS TWO YEAR NUTRIENT REMOVAL PILOT STUDY AT ICHETUCKNEE SPRINGS STATE PARK
~Wood chips may be low cost solution for reducing nitrogen loads from septic systems~
FORT WHITE – Today the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection launched a two-year pilot study at Ichetucknee Springs
State Park in an effort to improve septic tank performance. In many areas, deep
and sandy soils provide minimal treatment of nitrogen as it infiltrates to
groundwater. As a result, septic tanks, especially in higher-density
neighborhoods in vulnerable areas near springs, can contribute to elevated
Nitrogen is a naturally
occurring nutrient, necessary for the plants and animals living in surface
waters. But excessive levels of nitrate, a form of nitrogen, can cause algal
mats and depress oxygen levels, leading to an imbalance in the aquatic life of
an ecosystem. This is the current case in many springs across Florida, where
nitrate levels have been increasing for many years.
The Department has launched the
pilot study because basic septic systems provide limited nitrogen removal.
Placing a carbon source below a drainfield should provide additional nitrogen
removal through microbial treatment. This expectation is supported by
preliminary results of the Florida Department of Health’s ongoing study on
septic system nitrogen reduction options. A passive technology, like the one
being employed for the pilot study, offers the potential of an effective,
low-cost means of reducing nitrogen loads from septic systems.
nutrients are a problem to surface and ground waters in many areas in
Florida," said Drew Bartlett, DEP Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and
Ecosystem Restoration. "This pilot project will give us useful information
to better target nutrient reduction strategies and protect and restore our
watersheds, particularly vulnerable spring systems."
For the project, the Department
is installing a new drainfield at the State Park Manager's residence, which is
currently served by a conventional septic tank and drainfield. The new
drainfield will include an underlying reactive layer consisting of wood chips,
a source of carbon.
The Department has worked
closely with the Department of Health, the agency that regulates septic tanks
in Florida, to meet its requirements. A diverter box will be installed to allow
routing septic tank effluent back to the existing, conventional drainfield in
the event of failure or needed modification of the new drainfield.
The Department will sample
water quality quarterly to assess the effectiveness of the reactive wood-chip
layer in nitrogen treatment and removal. We will also evaluate the construction
cost and long-term viability of the reactive media. The pilot study is expected
to last about two years, but we are optimistic that interim results will tell
us much of what we want to know.