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Residents hear details of two sewer projects

This year's funding of $1.75-million launches a Chassahowitzka water and sewer project and a Homosassa sewer line.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 2, 2000


HOMOSASSA -- Fresh off a successful bid to obtain state funds, local officials Wednesday night discussed upcoming central sewer projects in Homosassa and Chassahowitzka.

The county will begin preparing an engineering plan for central sewer and water lines in Chassahowitzka, where researchers have discovered septic tank pollution. The project received $1-million in state money this year.

Plans also are moving ahead to install a second main sewer line down Yulee Drive into Old Homosassa as a partner to the initial line that runs down West Halls River Road to the Riverhaven subdivision, project manager Ken Cheek told 50 people at a meeting at the Homosassa Lions Club organized by County Commissioner Gary Bartell. The Homosassa sewer line received $750,000 from the Legislature.

This year's funding of $1.75-million will allow the Chassahowitzka project to get started and, in both towns, will reduce the amount of money property owners will have to pay for hookups.

"We were very lucky this year to get funding for two projects," state Rep. Nancy Argenziano said. "We have a real problem. We need to continue aggressively seeking funds."

Residents in both environmentally sensitive areas face hookup assessments of thousands of dollars, Bartell said. Still, he predicted most people will want to connect to central sewers.

Figures presented by Cheek show that extending water and sewer lines from Chassahowitzka to facilities at Sugarmill Woods remains the cheapest option.

Connecting to Sugarmill Woods would cost an estimated $1.6-million, he said. In contrast, the estimated price of hooking up to lines in Homosassa is $3.5-million, and constructing county-owned facilities east of U.S. 19 would cost an estimated $3.8-million.

County officials have pushed the construction of central sewers over other options, such as high-quality septic tanks and on-site composters. One topic of discussion at the meeting was the quality of aerobic septic tanks, a set-up that pumps air into the tank and is supposed to kill pathogens before they enter the groundwater.

In response to comments that central sewers were not necessarily the cheapest and safest answer, Gil Locke of Riverhaven said installing an aerobic system was expensive. He said he paid $5,000 for his system and pays another $300 in annual fees.

Jim McIntosh, who is running for County Commission, said the county should be looking for alternative solutions to central sewers. In addition, after hearing Bartell propose central sewers in east Citrus, he said the policy would encourage overdevelopment across the county. "That should be talked about."

The audience was fairly evenly divided between Homosassa and Chassahowitzka property owners, who heard an update on water quality testing being performed by the University of South Florida.

Project leader Joan Rose, a USF molecular biologist, said the final report would be completed by the end of the year. Present testing suggests human waste has seeped into the canals and is traveling quickly from septic tank to waterway -- a sign the tanks are not operating properly.

"I never saw a septic tank that didn't eventually fail," Homosassa resident Don Ellison said.

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