Going Septic to Sewer: Pine Hills Receives Grant Money to Protect Environment
In an effort towards overall neighborhood improvement, Pine Hills is working to upgrade several homes and offices from septic to sewer thanks to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) grant. The goal is two-fold: protect the Wekiva River Basin from septic tank leakage and create redevelopment opportunities along Pine Hills Road.
“One of the glaring issues facing the entire improvement district is the lack of infrastructure, but specifically wastewater,” said Sam Weekley, executive director, Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District. “This grant money will help us achieve our goal of getting septic tanks off 173 parcels and replace them all with centralized wastewater.”
Eighty-five percent of homes and offices in Pine Hills were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and all had individual septic tanks. Over the years, as pumping stations emerged, most of the homes and businesses were able to hook up to Orange County Utilities and a centralized wastewater system. But there are 173 parcels still on old septic tanks, which is an environmental issue because Pine Hills is part of the Little Wekiva Watershed (part of the Wekiva River Basin) — a protected area.
“All septic tanks eventually leak, and in Pine Hills they run right into the Wekiva River,” explained Weekley. “The DEP agrees that wastewater management and runoff are the biggest environmental issues in the state of Florida. We need to replace these old septic tanks before they cause serious harm to local ecosystems.”
Weekley has been working with Orange County Utilities on receiving grant money from both the DEP and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). Of the $41 million awarded to Orange County by the DEP, Pine Hills received $4.3 million; Weekley is working towards getting an additional $2.15 million from the DEO (or elsewhere) to complete the project.
“We’re proud to have acquired this grant and look forward to the improvements we’ll be able to make with the funding,” said Ed Torres, director of Orange County Utilities. “Bringing central sewer service could spark sustainable community redevelopment opportunities along Pine Hills Road. This is a wonderful opportunity to serve our community while improving our environment.”
Weekley is optimistic about procuring the additional $2.15 million needed to finish the project. “We’ve put together the most comprehensive plan we can, and I’m going to continue to pursue as many grant opportunities as possible,” he asserted. “I want to make this happen for the residents of Pine Hills.”
For more on the Pine Hills septic-to-sewer initiative and the Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District, contact Samuel Weekley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo cutline: Construction workers operating machinery.