Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are sending $114 million to help fund wastewater treatment efforts and improve water quality across the state.
The grants come courtesy of the Wastewater Grant Program, which was created as part of the Clean Waterways Act. Around 46% of this year’s funding will go toward projects in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL).
“Since I first took office, expediting water quality restoration has been one of my top priorities,” DeSantis said Friday.
“The Indian River Lagoon covers 40% of Florida’s east coast and is one of our state’s most iconic and critical natural resources, contributing an estimated $2 billion annually for tourism and recreation and $767 million to the marine industry. I am happy to join DEP and project partners here today to celebrate these projects that will help protect and restore the lagoon for future generations.”
The two largest grants announced Friday will go to septic-to-sewer conversion projects. Nearly $37 million will go to Wekiwa Springs in Orange County, while just over $20 million will fund a project in Hillsborough County’s Gibsonton area.
Several of the projects affecting the IRL area will also focus on septic-to-sewer conversions. Septic systems are significant contributors to pollution that allows algae to thrive in Florida’s waterways. By moving to sewer systems, environmental officials are hoping to cut down on the spread of toxic algae.
“The Governor’s commitment and advocacy for water quality in our state has been unwavering,” DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton said.
“Today we are celebrating a suite of projects that will help prevent or reduce the amount of nutrients going into the Indian River Lagoon, to help reduce the frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms, help restore seagrasses, and protect marine ecosystems. DEP is proud to be a partner in these critical projects, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with local governments to address water quality across the state.”
The state estimates those septic-to-sewer conversions will reduce the amount of total nitrogen per year by 62,000 pounds and the amount of total phosphorus per year by 5,000 pounds.
Further upgrades to a series of wastewater treatment facilities will cut another 200,000 pounds of total nitrogen and 37,000 of total phosphorus.
“We value the leadership and commitment to innovation being shown by the Governor, legislators, and DEP by making yet another valuable contribution to the environment in our District,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Board Chair Douglas Burnett.
“This type of funding commitment is what we at the St. Johns River Water Management District Board are looking for to move the needle on restoring the Indian River Lagoon to its natural state to enhance the environment.”
Republican lawmakers were also supportive of Friday’s announcement.
“The Indian River Lagoon is the lifeblood of Brevard County,” Rep. Randy Fine said. “It is our primary source of recreation, tourism, and economic growth. And for far too many years, it has suffered and its future has been ignored. So I am extraordinarily grateful that today Governor DeSantis has worked with all of us in Brevard to deliver on our collective promise to repair and preserve this national treasure.”
Added GOP Sen. Debbie Mayfield, “Under Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, Florida has tackled the state’s water quality issues head on. The $53 million of projects announced today shows the Governor’s commitment to improving the health of the IRL.”