Cleaning Up Bayou Texar

Referring to this post from last November, I made a point that a local conservation group, the Emerald Coastkeepers, seemed more interested in suing companies with deep pockets and not interested in trying to find out where the sewage comes from that has repeatedly caused the Health Department to close Bayou Texar from human contact. Turns out, they are interested in the sewage problem in the bayou.

Larry B. Johnson, the volunteer in charge of Bayou Texar for the Emerald Coastkeepers is on their board of directors. Larry and I are on the same page on the subject of sewage in the bayou and I have agreed to volunteer to find an end of the sewage problem that has plagued the bayou for so many years. So that’s where I got involved, and now have something to report.

There was a study published by the University of West Florida in September 2006 that was, at that time, the most comprehensive analysis of water quality in Bayou Texar ever done. The Health Department has it for your review on their website. You might need a lawyer and a chemist standing by to assist you in deciphering it. It is very detailed.

After looking at the survey and knowing how many years Bayou Texar has had a sewage problem, I set out to find some answers to these questions. If you have any questions to add, please let me know.

  • Does the Health Dept know which systems are in failing condition?
  • Where are they? Names and addresses.
  • Are any of the properties with failing septic systems within 50 feet of an ECUA sewer?
  • If yes, has the Health Dept taken steps to force the property owners to comply?
  • Has the Health Dept notified the property owners to repair their systems and if so, have the property owners complied?
  • Who is responsible for this problem continuing, the Health Dept or the property owners, or both?
  • Are there any outstanding orders for the ECUA to do any sewer hookups, and if so, how many?
  • Of those hook-up orders, how many of them are on the offending septic systems in the bayou?

With the cooperation of the Health Department and the ECUA, I can report that there are no septic systems facing Bayou Texar. All of the properties on the bayou are on city sewer. I don’t know how long that has been the case, but it is the case now.

Enforcement of codes as relates to sewage falls under the purview of the Health Department. And, according to Philip Davies there, the methods of enforcement they use are definitive and seem to work well. Most often it is handled with a little education to the property owner, and gets into a legal issue if necessary, but in either case, their actions are effective in correcting a problem.

Davies also said that there is a new study currently underway by UWF that is focused on determining the sources of the fecal contamination in the bayou, which necessarily includes Carpenter’s Creek. Carpenter’s Creek, which feeds into the bayou, extends from the bayou on up to beyond Olive Rd and Old Palafox. One quickly realizes how difficult a project this is when you appreciate the size of the area to examine.

There are currently no pending work orders for the ECUA to hookup residents to the sewer system in the Carpenter’s Creek area and no pending actions by the Health Department to residents in the Carpenter’s Creek area.

I questioned whether the dog park on the bayou was the culprit and the answer is no, it is not. Despite the fact that the testing site the Health Department uses for the bayou is right at the dog park, the fecal contamination is not coming from it. They use that site, as opposed to other locations on the bayou, because that is the part of the bayou that has the most public activity.

That is all I have to report at this time. Will report back with a progress report on the current survey that UWF is doing and when they think it will be finished.

UPDATE 01/08/08: Dr. Richard (Dick) Snyder, the biologist responsible for the current study, was prompt to reply to questions I had regarding the study. Thank you Dick for your quick reply. These were the questions . . .

When do you anticipate completing the report? Will the report, or the work being undertaken to produce a report, actually determine the sources or pathology of the fecal contamination as relates to specific properties along the waterway, including rainwater runoff sources? After determining what is happening to the bayou and why things are happening to the bayou, will making recommendations for remediation of the waterway be part of your report or subsequent reports? Is the subject study a UWF financed project or a federal, state, county or city grant-financed project? Basically, who is paying for it?

This is Dr. Snyder’s reply, which addresses every question, in his own words.

The study will be done over two years to incorporate annual variation in water levels. We will try to identify contaminated ground water as opposed to runoff, with the idea that the groundwater will more likely be septic or sewer malfunction. The data will be given to the DOH and ECUA for them to address any identified problems. Financing is from a fine levied against the Target Corp. for contaminating Carpenter’s Creek, through the West Florida Planning Council and with input from the Bayou Texar Foundation, who is providing some additional funding.

So from the standpoint of what happens next as far as sewage in the bayou is concerned, we wait for the report in late 2009 or early 2010. I suppose we can rest easy in the fact that there are no septic systems in use on the bayou itself. The problem appears to be upstream. Meanwhile, residents around Carpenter’s Creek should know to keep an eye out for septic system failures or sewage system failures and report them to the Health Department (595-6722) or the ECUA (969-3303).

4 thoughts on “Cleaning Up Bayou Texar”

  1. To Chasidy and everyone else, I’ve copied this topic to the Lunch Counter Discussion. I’ll respond to Chasidy here, and there. Further discussion on this topic is better served there.

    Basically, my answer is, this one topic, sewage, is all I have time for. It’s not that I don’t care about it. I think it is in litigation already. And thanks for the link to the report.

  2. I would also like to add that there is more than simply sewage in the Bayou which is of concern. For example petroleum, Aroclor polychlorobiphenyls (PCB), dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), organochlorine pesticides, pentachlorophenol (PCP), metals and radium. If oyu would like to learn more about this you may read another study completed by UWF and found at uwf.edu/liebens

  3. Thanks for the info Sam. I’m a bit surprised by the fact that no one at the ECUA or Health Department mentioned this. No one said to me, there are no septic systems on the bayou, BUT there are some within reach of the bayou on Ellison Drive. Chalk it up to me not asking the right questions I guess.

    At any rate, I’ll make sure Dr. Snyder is aware of the properties along Ellison Drive.

  4. Ross: Thanks for this article. I am glad you and Larry finally got together.

    One point of clarification is needed. There are several properties along Ellison Drive that are still on septic systems. Ellison Drive parallels Carpenter’s Creek just above its mouth into Bayou Texar.

    r/Sam Hall

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