Commissioner Nelson: Postpone sewer conversion for homeowners near Wekiwa Springs
A year ago, near the end of his final term as an Orange County commissioner, Fred Brummer stood before a group of angry homeowners, trying to persuade them to shut down their septic systems and connect with sewer lines for the sake of Wekiwa Springs.
His selling point? They wouldn't have to pay much.
Money would flow from the St. Johns River Water Management District, which pledged $2.5 million to the project; the state Department of Environmental Protection, which agreed to kick in $2.5 million; and Orange County, which would pick up most of the rest of the estimated $6.6 million bill.
"They were going to have to put up with the aggravation of having their streets torn up, but that was about it," Brummer said.
But now those folks, residents of Wekiwa Highlands, Sweetwater West and The Palms — Orange County neighborhoods within 2 miles from the environmentally sensitive springs — will receive a letter this week from their new commissioner, Bryan Nelson, who wants to put the sewer switch-over on hold.
Nelson said the county should focus on more cost-effective springs-improvement projects that deliver "more bang for our buck."
His stand has drawn mixed reviews and may flush away $5 million in state money for the conversion of 367 homes closest to the springs.
Leaders of environmental groups, concerned with pollution percolating from residential septic systems and flowing through the Wekiva River basin, believe that delays in shutting down the nearby systems imperil the long-term health of the treasured springs, the river and its tributaries.