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The Difference Between Septic and Sewer

flushing wet wipe

Septic tanks are a hot-button issue in Port St. Lucie these days. Many are blaming septic tanks for environmental pollution. If you’re a Port St. Lucie homeowner or interested in the area’s natural resources, it’s important you know the difference between septic and sewer systems.

Operational Differences

Sewer and septic tanks systems both remove wastes from your home via your toilets and drains. The key difference is how they’re treated after your flush them away.

In sewer systems, the wastewater and solids are piped to a local water treatment plant for processing. In a septic system, the waste is emptied into a holding tank underground in your yard.

How Septic Tanks Work

The septic tank in your yard holds all the wastewater and solids, where it settles into three separate layers: scum, wastewater, and sludge. While the sludge and scum is removed whenever the system is serviced by pumping, the wastewater drains into the leach field.

The leach field is a system of pipes that slowly releases the wastewater into the soil. There, it is further processed by exposure to oxygen and microbes in the soil.

Why The Difference Between Septic and Sewer Systems Matter

Over the last several years, scientists have become concerned about excess nutrient wastes in the St. Lucie River and the surrounding waters. Some claim that these nutrient pollutants have caused an increase in manatee deaths over the last year.

Just a few years ago, an increase of blue-green algae in the St. Lucie River made people ill, and advisories were issued to warn people away from the water.

Stormwater runoff, fertilizer use, and leaky septic systems were blamed.

Regional Differences

While septic tanks are considered environmentally friendly, it may be a different story in Florida.

There are over 17,000 homes with septic tanks in the Port St. Lucie service area, and of those, over 5,000 are within 50 feet of a waterway.

So, the City of Port St. Lucie launched a Septic to Sewer Conversion program to help homeowners, and local citizens are responding positively. In 2016, only 830 homeowners accessed the program, while 1,932 homeowners used the program in 2020.

The City offers no-interest loans to finance the conversion, and grants of 50 to 100 percent of the cost are available.

Other Disadvantages of Septic Tanks

Septic systems are privately owned, which means the homeowner is on the hook for maintenance and repair costs.

Septic systems require biodegradable toilet paper and can’t handle kitchen scraps that slip down the drain. You’re also limited in water use, as excess wastewater means more frequent service calls.

What Next?

If you have a septic system but aren’t ready to make the conversion, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help.

Properly maintaining your current septic system is critical. Make an appointment with the team at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in Port St. Lucie. They’ll check the integrity of your tank and schedule regular service calls to reduce contaminates escaping your tank.