Septic systems are also called onsite treatment and disposal systems (OSTDS) and are regulated locally by the Alachua County Health Department. To obtain a permit for proposed installations, repairs, modifications, and approvals of existing systems, contact the Florida Department of Health.
To increase the efficiency of your septic system (and protect water quality) you can:
- Have it inspected by a licensed professional every 2-3 years
- Always pump your system when recommended by a professional
- Never put grease down the drain
- Bring household chemicals to the Hazardous Waste Collection Center instead of pouring them down the drain
- Use water efficiently
- Upgrade to a nutrient reducing system (see below)
- Learn more tips about your septic system
Enhanced Nutrient Reducing Septic Systems
Conventional septic systems are not designed to remove nitrogen, which can harm our water bodies. There are three types of systems that are approved for use in Florida which will reduce the amount of nutrients and protect our water.
- In-Ground Nitrogen Reducing Biofilter (INRB) – These are typically a passive system with media layers under the drainfield that remove nitrogen. For a description of the specs view the State Rule.
- NSF-245 certified Systems/Aerobic Treatment Unit (ATU) – These systems are certified to Standard ANSI/NSF 245 as capable of providing at least 50% nitrogen reduction under test center conditions before treated wastewater is discharged to the drainfield. Such systems generally use aerators and pumps or other methods to recirculate effluent to reduce nitrogen. NSF-245 certified systems approved for use in Florida may be found on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website.
- Performance Based Treatment System (PBTS) – Systems that are engineer-designed to achieve certain treatment goals for certain pollutants. Certain systems are approved for use in Florida.
Santa Fe Basin Rebate Program
EPD has received funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to provide qualifying property owners near Lake Santa Fe and the Santa Fe River with 50% rebates, up to $5,000, to upgrade existing septic systems to enhanced nutrient reducing systems to improve water quality.
Fat, Oil and Grease (FOG) Disposal
A large percentage of wastewater spills and overflows are caused by sewer pipes clogged with fats, oils, and grease. Always put cooking grease in a container and put it in the trash instead of pouring it down the drain. The Alachua County Hazardous Waste Collection Center will also take your used cooking oil and recycle it into biofuel for county vehicles!
Learn more about FOGs in this pamphlet.
The Alachua County Wastewater Code gives authority to the county to conduct inspections and to sample effluent from the sixteen wastewater plants operating under permits issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in Alachua County. Eight of these are municipal plants and the remaining eleven are smaller plants (also called package plants) located at mobile home parks, apartment complexes, hotels, and schools. ACEPD performs the routine inspections and sends the results to the plant owners and FDEP.
Treated effluent (or reclaimed water) from the wastewater facilities recharges the aquifer via spray irrigation, percolation ponds, or deep well injection. Sometimes it is discharged directly to surface waters. The municipal plants in the cities of Alachua and Gainesville have re-use programs for piping the treated water so it can be re-used for uses such as irrigation. When using reclaimed water for irrigation it is important to reduce (or eliminate) fertilizer use, as there is already nutrients in this water.
Inspection data is compiled into a report every five years and is available to the public on our Reports, Data, & Maps page. ACEPD also responds to wastewater spills. Spills should be reported to 352-264-6817 regardless of size.
Preventing Wastewater Pollution
Report wastewater spills to your local utility company, or ACEPD at 352-264-6817
Treated wastewater eventually makes its way back into our water supply which is why it is important to be aware of what we are putting down our drains and toilets. Although wastewater treatment plants are fairly efficient at removing nutrients and bacteria, there are some pollutants that are not easily removed from wastewater: