FDEP gives OUA $6 million grant

OKEECHOBEE — Good news from the Okeechobee Utility Authority: OUA has received a $6 million grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The bad news: It’s just a fraction of the total needed for the septic-to-sewer projects OUA proposed to reduce the nutrient load going into area waterways.

OUA Executive Director John Hayford said OUA submitted four projects, totaling about $50 million, for consideration for FDEP grant funding.

He said FDEP approved a grant of $6 million and did not specify which project the funds should target. The OUA will have a special meeting on Sept. 30 to discuss the grant.

The projects proposed for FDEP grant funding include:
• Treasure Island Septic-to-Sewer Project would include 2,430 new connections. The project would remove about 21.9 tons of nitrogen and 5.3 tons of phosphorus per year. The project would cost an estimated $24,300,000.
• The Southwest Waste Water Service Area project would connect about 738 residential customers who are currently on septic tanks to sewer. Nutrients removed from septic tanks are an estimated 6.7 tons of nitrogen per year and 1.6 tons of phosphorus. The project would cost an estimated $13,950,000.
• Pine Ridge Park Septic-to-Sewer project would connect about 80 homes to sewer. It would reduce the nutrient load from septic tanks by about 0.75 ton of nitrogen and 0.25 ton of phosphorus per year. Estimated project cost is $1,500,000.
• Okee-Tantie Wastewater Improvement project would connect 39 residential customers, 14 non-residential customers (20 equivalent residential connections) and 33 master meters (574 equivalent residential connections) to sewer. The project would remove an estimated 5.7 tons of nitrogen and 1.4 tons of phosphorus per year. Cost is estimated at $10,500,000.

At the Sept. 19 Okeechobee County Commission meeting, Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said he is promoting a plan to ask the legislature to set aside about $50 million in septic-to-sewer grant funding for fiscally impaired counties such as Glades and Okeechobee counties for projects on waterways that directly impact Lake Okeechobee. He explained that while the state did allocate some septic-to-sewer funding this year, there is fierce competition for that money from all over the state.

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