By: Dave Berman, Florida Today
County commissioners have given final approval to strict septic tank rules designed to reduce the flow of harmful nitrogen and phosphorus into the Indian River Lagoon.
Through its 5-0 vote on Tuesday night, commissioners banned the installation of new conventional septic tanks along the beachside, on Merritt Island, and in areas of the mainland close to the lagoon and its tributaries.
The measure allows installation of new "nitrogen-reducing septic systems" that cut nitrogen emissions by at least 65 percent in these areas. These tanks cost thousands of dollars more than conventional systems, but better protect the environment.
The ordinance is "an important step in restoring the lagoon back to health," said Frank Gidus of Orlando, director of habitat and environmental restoration for the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, one of 10 speakers to address county commissioners in support of the measure before the vote. "It's critical that you stop more nutrients" like nitrogen from entering the lagoon.
Among the other speakers backing the plan were representatives of the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition, Keep Brevard Beautiful, the Space Coast Progressive Alliance and the Turtle Coast Sierra Club.
Under the new rules, in addition to all of Brevard's beachside barrier island and Merritt Island, the mainland areas affected include locations within 200 feet of the Indian River Lagoon shoreline. An exception is in the Melbourne-Tillman Water Control District area of South Brevard, where the buffer would be within 130 feet of the lagoon shoreline.
"I'm glad we're doing this," County Commission Vice Chair Kristine Isnardi said, adding that she wouldn't rule out making the provisions countywide in the future.
Isnardi said the county also must address issues related to sewage capacity and other infrastructure to reduce the likelihood of sewage flowing into the lagoon and to reduce the number of septic systems in the county.
Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department Director Virginia Barker said the more efficient septic systems allowed under the new rules cost $4,000 or more on average than conventional systems…