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GAINESVILLE – The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners has chosen to opt-out of the State of Florida Septic Tank Evaluation Program.

By state law, a county or municipality where a first magnitude spring is located must decide whether or not to require an evaluation program for their area by Jan. 1, 2013. All other counties may choose to adopt the state program in their area at any time. The program would require counties with first-magnitude springs to mandate septic system inspections and a pump-out every five years. The largest springs are called "first-magnitude" springs, and typically discharge around 64.6 million gallons each day. Alachua County has three first-magnitude springs: the Hornsby, Santa Fe Rise and Treehouse Springs.

The law provides the county with the option to either adopt or opt out of the program. In 2010, the Florida Legislature passed a requirement for Florida septic systems to be inspected. That requirement was eliminated and replaced by House Bill 1263, which provides codes for counties to follow once the program was adopted.

Each evaluation of the septic systems would cost homeowners from $500 to $600. Residences on a lot with one bedroom per acre would be exempt from the evaluations.

A primary concern regarding septic systems is the amount of nitrates impacting the springs. Alachua County water resource manager Gus Olmos said a study was commissioned that revealed 17 percent of nitrates entering into the springs was from septic tanks that were fully functioning.

As of Nov. 7, 2012, no Florida counties had opted in to the Septic Tank Evaluation Program, and according to the state’s website, 18 counties in addition to Alachua County had opted out.

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