Sea rise makes septic tanks ‘ticking bombs.’ Why does Miami-Dade still allow them?

Miami Herald

By Alex Harris

Oct 6, 2020

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Septic tank woes aren’t a uniquely Miami-Dade problem. In the northern half of the state, they’re one of the leading pollution problems for the Florida Springs, prompting Tallahassee to create a revolving loan to help small cities switch from septic to sewer.

In Martin County, they leak into the Indian River Lagoon. But the county is pioneering a new idea to get its most vulnerable septic tanks onto sewer mains without charging residents more than they can handle.

The county identified the riskiest spots, about 500 houses, and installed the main pipes out to those homes. To help residents foot the bill, the county partnered with a non-profit lending company, the Solar Energy Loan Fund or SELF, to customize individual loans. The monthly payment is under $85, and residents pay through their water bills.

“I’ve got people waiting in a queue for the financing. I think I’m going to have a run as soon as the Board of County Commissioners approves it. We are pretty excited about it,” said Samuel Amerson, utilities and solid waste director for Martin County.

In the rest of the state, getting the money to switch to sewer would require going to the bank for a loan. Bills to allow a popular — yet controversial — private program that offers loans to install solar or replace roofs to expand to cover septic-to-sewer conversion haven’t advanced in Tallahassee. But those options can price out lower-income residents, which is the case for many of Miami-Dade’s septic tank owners.

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