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Jacksonville Septic Tank Phase Out, Next Stop City Council

Peter Haden
JEA workers connect a home to a sewer line in 2014.

Jacksonville City Council will soon vote on a plan to fund the phasing out of septic tanks. 

The city and JEA would equally contribute a combined $30 million to get septic tank owners hooked up to city sewer lines.

The two bodies have been discussing a plan for more than a year.

The project would replace more than 1,000 septic tanks across town. Public Works Director John Pappas said the money would cover building the city line infrastructure and hooking up homes. A single hookup could cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 said Pappas.

The septic phase-out is meant to protect the environment. The criteria for which houses get the city-funded sewage hookup are heavily weighted for environmental, health and welfare factors, including a health department score and if the homes are near polluted waterways.

On Wednesday, Councilman Matt Schellenberg said he thinks phasing them out is important, but it’s the homeowner's responsibility, not the city’s.  

“So if they need a new roof is the city ever going to do this or did we open that pandora's box and say ‘hey, I understand what’s going on, you can’t afford it or whatever it may be.’ What happens?” he said.

Pappas said there are 37 areas identified as high priority areas for city hookup that would cost about $700,000,000. Schellenberg said approving city dollars for this project would set an expectation the city will cover it for everybody.

But the rest of the Finance Committee voted in favor of funding the phase out plan, including Councilman Greg Anderson.

“I think the preponderance of evidence would show that the right thing to do is to remove the septic tanks and in the neighborhoods that are most affected this is probably the right way to go.” Anderson said.

Pappas said 70 percent of a neighborhood would have to agree to switch to sewer service or they would leave the septic tanks in place.

Residents would have a year to hook up. If they don’t, they’d be charged roughly $21 per month, the fee for being hooked up. That money will go to future improvements. The average JEA bill is around $40 for people using 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of water a month, including being hooked up, tax and usage.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.