Orange County Government, Florida

Protecting Wekiva Basin Springs: Ensuring clean water for our future

Wekiva Basin Area Requirements

On July 1, 2018, rules for property owners in the Wekiva Basin became effective. The 2016 Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (Chapter 373, Part VIII) requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to do two main things:

  • Adopt recovery and prevention strategies to maintain healthy water levels in the aquifer that feeds the springs; and
  • Develop plans to manage the basin in a manner that ensures pollution is prevented or removed from the system.

FDEP has determined that septic tanks are a major source of nutrient pollution in the springs. Orange County and other stakeholders are mandated to implement various strategies to reduce total nitrogen levels.

Changes for Septic Tank Owners

Property owners of lots less than one acre, with septic tanks, within the Priority Focus Area (PFA), will need to upgrade their system to treat nitrogen or connect to sanitary sewer where available. If you do live in the PFA, see below for information on funding toward your upgrade or connection.

Find out if your property is located in the PFA

Street address only  e.g. 201 S Rosalind Ave
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Frequently Asked Questions

Why are the permitting requirements for septic systems changing?

In 2016, the Florida Legislature identified 30 “Outstanding Florida Springs” that require additional protections to ensure their conservation and restoration for future generations. These protections will be outlined in restoration plans, known as Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs), focused on reducing nitrogen pollution that is impacting the water quality of these springs. In some areas, the water leaving septic tanks has been identified as a major contributor to nitrogen pollution. Where this occurs, the law requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to include a septic system remediation plan within that spring’s BMAP. The law requires specific actions regarding both existing and new septic systems located near impacted springs within areas known as Priority Focus Areas.

Nitrogen pollution is impacting the water quality of many of Florida’s Outstanding Springs. Water from conventional septic systems is high in nitrogen, and that water leaves the septic system drain field, reaches the aquifer and emerges in the springs. While conventional septic systems are good at removing many pollutants from wastewater, they are not designed to remove nitrogen. To restore spring water quality, contributing septic systems need to be either removed or upgraded to include enhanced nitrogen-reducing technology.

Septic systems pose the highest threat to water quality in areas where they are located near springs with highly permeable (sandy) soil. These vulnerable areas are identified as Priority Focus Areas in the remediation plans.

Requirements for new septic system permits apply to lots less than one acre within a Priority Focus Area.

View the interactive map or use the Orange County PFA search tool on this web page.

For existing systems within the Priority Focus Areas, nothing will immediately change. However, in the future, failing systems will need to be enhanced with nitrogen-removing technology or the home/business will need to connect to central sewer. These requirements will be put in place after certain programs, such as homeowner grant programs to assist with offsetting the cost of replacement systems, are established and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) has completed rulemaking for septic systems. These requirements will be phased in no later than five years after the adoption of the restoration plans.

Requirements for installation of new homes or businesses needing new septic systems on lots less than one acre within the Priority Focus Areas will change. These new systems will be required to include enhanced treatment of nitrogen. The installation of nitrogen-reducing systems will not be required if a central sewer connection project is planned by the local government and the project has been included in the remediation plan. These changes will apply to all new system permits issued on or after adoption of the Basin Management Action Plan (no later than July 1, 2018).

For existing systems, nothing will change until FDEP provides funding mechanism to help offset upgraded system and sewer connection fees.

Requests for new septic permits within the Priority Focus Areas on lots less than one acre are required to install a nitrogen treatment system or connect to sewer.

FDOH designates which treatment systems are permittable. You can view their website and/or contact them directly for current information at 850-245-4250 or AskEH@flhealth.gov to obtain a list or verify that the system you are interested in is permittable within the BMAP requirements.

Because septic system design can vary, questions about specific systems can be answered by your Florida Department of Health (FDOH) representative or design professional. FDOH has a research team that can be contacted at 850-245-4250 or AskEH@flhealth.gov.

If your home is eligible for sanitary sewer service, your local utility provider can walk you through the process to hook your property up to sanitary sewer.

First, determine that your selected system is permitted by Florida Department of Health (FDOH) per BMAP requirements. Contact a local contractor to obtain cost information. The manufacturer can provide information about local contractors trained to install and provide maintenance of nitrogen reduction systems. Contact FDOH directly for specific questions and current information at 850-245-4250 or AskEH@flhealth.gov.

Each local utility provider sets the hookup rates based on their own criteria. Contact your local utility provider to determine the cost for your property.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is working with the water management districts, Florida Department of Health and local governments to develop grant programs to provide funding assistance that will offset homeowner costs for replacement of existing systems. FDEP will administer the grant program to help homeowners cover the difference in costs for upgrading their existing septic system to enhanced nitrogen treatment systems that reduce impacts to springs. In areas that are connecting to central sewer, FDEP and the water management districts will continue to provide funding to the local governments and utilities to offset a portion of connection costs for homeowners.

Florida Department of Health has information on lot size requirements on their web page.

Rule updates for the Florida Department of Health are located at www.flrules.org, and updated information is maintained for the Wekiva BMAP on this page.

Septic system installers must have appropriate training to install nitrogen treatment systems. When installing septic systems, always do your due diligence to ensure you have contracted a state licensed septic tank contractor or a state licensed plumber to do the work.

Contact Florida Onsite Wastewater Association for more information.

Please contact your local utility provider to determine if your home is scheduled for sanitary sewer hookup.

Yes. Unfortunately, regular maintenance of a septic system only addresses bacteria and does not address the nutrients that are causing impairment of our spring shed. Only upgrading to a nitrogen treatment system or hooking up to sanitary can help address this issue.

Your local utility provider can provide you with information on whether sanitary sewer is available or may become available for your area.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection will review the water-quality data every five years, assess the progress and adjust the focus and requirements as needed.

Your system will have to be upgraded if it fails, and, if it does not, all systems within the Priority Focus Area will need to be upgraded within the next 20 years.

Contact Us

Orange County Environmental Protection Division
3165 McCrory Place, Suite 200
Orlando, FL 32803

Email: EPD@ocfl.net
Phone: (407) 836-1400
Fax: (407) 836-1499

All e-mail sent to this address becomes part of Orange County public record. Comments received by our e-mail subsystem can be read by anyone who requests that privilege. In compliance with "Government in the Sunshine" laws, Orange County Government must make available, at request, any and all information not deemed a threat to the security of law enforcement agencies and personnel.