The Current Septic System Problem in Duval County Florida

Properly installed septic systems that are frequently maintained are a very effective way of dealing with sewage in Duval County. Before now, Duval County’s regulation requirements only mandated the actual installation of the septic system. Now, due to recent elevations in the levels of fecal coliform in over 51 tributaries that are no longer meeting their designated use and are impaired for their recreational value, Duval County is cracking down on the septic system maintenance of the county’s residents. With these new changes, homeowners want to make sure that the septic company they go with is a professional certified company like Jacksonville Septic that knows the rules and regulations.

Jacksonville initiated a tributary water quality monitoring program over 20 years ago. The St. Johns River in Duval County has approximately 152 tributary Water Body Identifications or Segments (WBIDs). The program monitors the quality of the water surface on a quarterly basis at approximately 100 locations on 72 tributaries. One of the major parameters that is measured is the amount of bacteria (fecal coliform) that is found in the digestive tracts of warm blooded animals in and around the water in order to find out exactly how much human sewage is entering the waterways of Jacksonville. Right now, the water quality monitoring efforts have proven that over half the tributaries in Jacksonville are currently violating Florida’s fecal coliform standard.

Jacksonville’s surface water monitoring program has always found that the concentration of nutrients is 10 times higher in waterways that are adjacent to or surrounded by septic tank areas than previous years. According to very recent groundwater studies, this type of nutrient accumulation is to be expected due to the fact that shallow groundwater makes up much of the flow of local surface waters. Studies have also shown the influence of groundwater runoff in the transport of nutrients to coastal waterways, mostly in areas with a high density of on-site septic tanks.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has now issued Total Maximum Daily Load, otherwise know as TMDL, standards for 10 of the impaired tributaries. There are many more to follow and these new standards require reduction in the amount of fecal coliform bacteria and nutrients flowing into each of these tributaries. These new standards on septic tank maintenance will substantially improve water quality in the creeks of Jacksonville.

A study performed by the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program in Massachusetts found that “coliform bacteria and pathogens enter the coastal water environment mostly through direct surface flow from streams, stormwater discharge, groundwater draining from septic tanks within 300 feet of the water, and overland flow. The study also found the bacteria have a short travel time to the receiving waters.

Currently, there are 22 failed septic tank areas located within Jacksonville’s urbanized area and Jacksonville Septic is working hard to bring those numbers down.

Duval County Florida Plan Of Action

Septic tank inspection and maintenance regulations have been proposed to monitor current septic systems to find those that are faulty and need mandatory repairs. Septic tank owners will be identified and made to perform mandatory inspections on their systems. Duval County will now be issuing inspection certifications and operating permits upon completion of every inspection. Owners will not have to apply for permits but owners of faulty systems will be notified and will have 60 days from the day of notification to rectify the problems and comply with county standards. These inspections must be done every 5 years and Jacksonville Septic can save you time and money if any emergency repairs must be made to your septic system.

Homeowners will also be notified if they have illegally connected to the JEA system, city stormwater systems or have an illegal outfall into a waterway. If so, they could be subject to a penalty and can take advantage of a proposed amnesty program. For those that choose to take advantage of the amnesty program our certified professionals here at Jacksonville Septic will get you on the right track fast, making sure you do not accrue any additional fines or fees from Duval County. Current inspection certification and operating permits will be separate from the new permits that will be issued in Jacksonville. Performance-based systems will be exempt because they are already subject to maintenance requirements and health department inspections.


Increase setback for installation of new septic tanks beyond the current standard of 75 feet from the mean high water line of a tidally influenced water body as defined in the Florida Administrative Code and Florida Statutes.

Only performance-based septic systems may be constructed between 150 feet and 300 feet away from the mean high water line of a tidally influenced water body.

Only performance-based septic systems may be constructed within hurricane evacuation zone 1 or the coastal high hazard zones, with one exception: Existing septic systems permitted prior to July 31, 2006 may continue to operate within 300 feet of the mean high water line of tidally influenced surface bodies of water with a permit until they become a sanitary nuisance or until connection with regional sewer is possible.

Existing systems that fail within an area where no regional sewer exists will be required to rehabilitate the systems in compliance with the most current standards unless they are located within a failed septic tank area, which are regulated by city ordinances.

The city of Jacksonville is also proposing a septic tank mitigation program. It will work as follows:

For every new septic system installed within a basin with a TMDL for fecal coliform bacteria, the homeowner or developer must contribute to the cost of converting septic systems within the impaired basin through the Water and Sewer Expansion Authority. This will allow the authority to expand sewer service into unserved neighborhoods within the same basin.


Connection Requirements: Requests for connection deferrals in failed septic tank areas must be made within 120 days of notice of sewer availability and connections must be made upon transfer of property.

Amnesty program for illicit connections: It is suspected that there are numerous illicit connections to the sewer system or potentially direct outfalls (“tailpipes”) into the river or tributaries. The new inspection program aims to pursue violators but are providing a period of amnesty where violators will be able to report themselves to the city of Jacksonville and obtain approval from the appropriate agencies.

With all these new rules and regulations on septic systems you can certainly rack up thousands of dollars worth of repairs in a matter of minutes. Save yourself time and money and contact our fully trained and certified professionals at Jacksonville Septic today!