It’s Been Settled: Aging Public Wastewater Infrastructure Doesn’t Hold Up

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It’s Been Settled: Aging Public Wastewater Infrastructure Doesn’t Hold Up

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wastewater infrastructure
Photo Credit: Jaxstrong

We’ve watched for years as septic systems have been publicly scapegoated for the polluting of our local waterways. Meanwhile, we’ve also witnessed the EPA permitting millions of gallons of effluent (that’s partially treated wastewater) to enter our waterways on an annual basis. We’ve explained the sustainability of septic systems for homeowners and why they’re a perfect way to recharge the groundwater surrounding your home and a safe and effective solution for managing your household waste. We’ve spent decades trying to discuss the function of septic systems and lobby for septic maintenance incentives and credits for homeowners. Meanwhile, we’ve seen more and more septic systems traded in for connection to public wastewater treatment facilities. And, to be completely honest, none of it adds up.

It’s a frustrating battle and one that can become discouraging with so many media outlets and even some scientists claiming that septic systems are the problem. However, a simple look at the number of malfunctions at wastewater treatment facilities across the state and we have some pretty significant numbers to explore. If you haven’t had the opportunity to review the last 30 days of pollution notices from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, I highly recommend that you check it out. Because the biggest culprit of pollution to our waterways as documented by the DEP is not septic tanks, it is municipal wastewater treatment facilities.

Don’t believe it?
Check out the City of Bradenton’s recent settlement with environmental groups after a lawsuit attempting to hold them accountable for 160 million gallons of sewage spills over the last 4 years. The City was sued by environmental advocacy groups over the sewage that has been dumped into the Manatee River since 2018. The article claims that the City of Bradenton’s aging wastewater treatment infrastructure has caused raw and partially treated sewage to be diverted to the river after heavy rainfall on several occasions. South Florida Water Management District also runs into this problem during the summer months and typically releases effluent into the Caloosahatchee during the rainy season. Meanwhile, fingers are pointed at septic systems whose tanks are buried into the ground and whose drainfields spread effluent among the soil to be filtered prior to recharging the groundwater. There are rarely if ever, instances where raw sewage en mass finds its way directly into waterways or groundwater reserves.

Instances like these are not at all isolated and are only compounded when lift stations malfunction, pipes burst due to age or fatbergs, and sewers experience backups during storms. Just check out this recent pipe break from only 3 days ago that blasted 750 gallons of raw sewage into a North Fort Myers neighborhood’s nearby lakes and creek, which runs into the Caloosahatchee River.

Even USA Today’s article on the Sewer Crisis in the State of Florida admits that the hundreds of miles of sewer lines weren’t built to manage the capacity they’re managing. “The infrastructure is getting older, it’s very expensive to replace and people don’t think about it, or don’t want to pay a bigger sewer bill,” said Rebecca Shelton, a member of ASCE’s Committee on America’s Infrastructure who worked on the wastewater report card. “There’s still a long way to go.”

We already mentioned the situation that transpired between 2019-2020 in Fort Lauderdale with more than 230 million gallons of sewage spilled into waterways in that period — and yet, septic systems are marketed to be the problem.

If lawsuits are being settled with environmental groups and the City of Fort Lauderdale is settling suits for even more massive spills that occurred in addition to the millions of gallons of effluent and raw sewage discharged in malfunctions and accidents that occur on an everyday basis – is it really septic systems causing our water quality problems?

In a time when the government no longer seems to have our best interest at heart, we have to ask ourselves – what’s the real problem here? So many are proposing that we connect more homes to aging infrastructure to help fund the repairs, but piled on with continued development, it seems to just exacerbate the problem.

You can count on Crews Environmental as your trusted Southwest Florida Septic Contractor to continue to lobby for wastewater management autonomy and septic system maintenance incentives for proactive care. We’ll be gathering as much evidence as we can to set the record straight and remind people of the sustainability and autonomy that comes with owning and properly managing your home septic system. While we cannot control what our government does, we can take matters into our own hands when we inspect and pump out our own systems regularly, operate with a septic smart mentality, be responsible when fertilizing and using chemicals in the home, and taking responsibility for our individual contributions to potential water quality and environmental issues in our state.

When was the last time your septic system was pumped out or inspected?
We’re here for you. While complex infrastructure issues may have created a huge water quality issue for us, homeowners with septic systems can still do their part.



  • Pollution Notice, Agency: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Given asLast 30 Days Reported, Public Notice of Pollution –, <View Pollution Notices(>
  • Mendoza, Jesse, May 13, 2022, Bradenton settles lawsuit over 160 million gallons insewage spills since 2018, Herald-Tribune, Viewed May 23, 2022, <Florida city settlessuit over 160 million gallons in sewage spills (>
  • Alonso, Elisia, May 17, 2022, Raw sewage spills into North Fort Myers neighborhood after pipebreak, Viewed May 23, 2022, <Raw sewage spills into North Fort Myers neighborhood afterpipe break – NBC2 News (>
  • Salman, Josh/Borresen, Jennifer/Chen, Daphne/Le, Dak/Gatehouse Media, Sewer CrisisIn The State of Florida, Gannett, Viewed May 23, 2022, <Home – Sewer Crisis in Florida(>
  • Sainato, Michael Date: October 10, 2020, Florida sewage spills expected to worsen due toageing infrastructure, The Guardian Date Viewed: May 23, 2022