OUA considers plans for sewer line expansion

OKEECHOBEE — Plans for a Bass Pro fishing resort at the Okee-Tantie Recreation Area were considered at the Dec. 20 meeting Okeechobee County Commission with a discussion of sewer line expansions.

“There were three possibilities at Okee-Tantie,” explained John Hayford, executive director of the Okeechobee Utility Authority (OUA), “We do have an existing wastewater plant at Okee-Tantie.

One option was to refurbish or replace that treatment plant with one that would meet the needs of the expansion. The second option was to move offsite somewhere and build a treatment plant somewhere offsite in the vicinity of Okee-Tantie. The third option was to convert the treatment plant to a pump station and pump the wastewater to our regional facility.

“If we were to build the force main route, as we move forward up SR 78, we would be able to pick up a few of our existing water customers along that road,” he explained. “There are 39 residential water accounts between Okee-Tantie and Southwest 16th Avenue,” he continued.

There are also 14 non-residential accounts and 33 master meter accounts, he added. He said the master meter accounts are primarily mobile home parks.

Mr. Hayford said expanding the sewer line to that area could help with nutrient reduction in the watershed.

“With every septic tank or package treatment plant there are some expected discharges,” he said.

OUA estimates that getting those areas onto the sewer system will reduce the nitrogen loading into the lake by 5.7 tons a year and the phosphorus by 1.4 tons a year.

He estimated the cost of running the lines to Okee-Tantie will cost $5.8 million, including the demolition of the existing treatment plant, building a new pump station and pipe to tie into the sewer line expansion in the Southwest section of the county. If OUA does not do the Southwest sewer expansion project, running the sewer lines from Okee-Tantie to connect with the nearest available lines would cost more than $10 million.

Commissioner David Hazellief said package plants and septic tanks do not remove phosphorus. He said the county commissioners should do everything they can to reduce the phosphorus and nitrogen entering the lake.

The nutrient load from the septic tanks and the package plants along State Road 78 goes into the Rim Canal, he added.

Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said OUA should contact Florida Department of Environmental Protection for help with funding since this project would reduce nutrient load.

Mr. Hayford said some of the older septic tank drainfields also pose a potential public health threat during high water levels, which might also be a consideration for state funding help.

“The hookup at Okee-Tantie would reduce phosphorus going to the Rim Canal,” said Commissioner David Hazellief. Running the sewer lines down SR 78 would also open up that whole corridor for development, without adding to the phosphorus going into the lake.

Adding sewer lines “will significantly remove all of these package plants off the Rim Canal,” said Chairman Burroughs.

“It’s always better to have that infrastructure in place before development occurs,” said Mr. Hayford.

Chairman Burroughs said the county will know Bass Pro’s plans in January.

“If Bass Pro decides to come, we need to put the infrastructure in there,” said Chairman Burroughs.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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