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Hillsborough County program encourages residents to trade septic tanks for central sewage treatment

The project now underway in Hillsborough County is looking to improve the quality of the underground water supply and reduce algae blooms from too many nutrients.

Septic tanks have been blamed for polluting underground water supplies and helping create algae blooms.

Now, a program aimed at eliminating some of those tanks around the University of South Florida is underway.

There are about 1,300 homes and apartments west of USF's Tampa campus that were allowed to be built decades ago without hooking into a central sewer system. Now, funding from Hillsborough County will allow those homeowners to connect with Tampa's wastewater system - for free.

George Cassady is assistant county administrator for public utilities.

"With all the recent focus on algae blooms in the bay and red tide in the Gulf and certainly springs protection throughout Florida," he said, "there's been a lot of interest in where those nutrients are coming from that are causing these algae problems in our waterways. And so the the target has been septic tanks."

Cassady says customers will have to pay a monthly bill after their systems are converted. He says they've had about a dozen inquiries so far.

He also says it's worth it for many homeowners.

"What really hits home is when you lose the ability to flush your toilet or take a shower," he said. "You know, if you are having issues with your septic system, the drain field is not operating properly, you know all of a sudden becomes a significant issue in your home if you can't take a shower and you can't do the laundry and you can't wash your dishes. And so that's when it gets people's interest."

To qualify for the Hillsborough County Septic-to-Sewer program, residential dwellings in the University Area must be located within the following boundaries: Bearss Avenue to the north, Fowler Avenue to the south, Interstate 275 to the west, and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to the east.

To learn more about the Hillsborough County septic-to-sewer program or to apply, contact Elsie Lewis-Storey, program manager with Applied Sciences Consulting, Inc.,?at (813) 228-0900, or email at?

Cassady says Health Department records show there's about 122,000 septic tanks in Hillsborough County. Most of those are well outside the service are