Vero Beach (population 15,220 in 2010) is a small but densely populated city adjacent to the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast. Many of the city’s approximately 1,500 on-site septic tanks and drainfields were failing, and the excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and bacteria were considered primary contributors of pollution to the watershed.
For years, Vero Beach and various independent consultants searched for an affordable technology to eliminate the impact caused by residents’ failing septic systems. Immediately after damage caused by hurricanes in 2004, approximately 60 homes with failing systems voluntarily connected to the city’s existing gravity sewer system. The construction impact was extensive and required digging up narrow residential streets for installation of the gravity sewer collection lines and associated equipment. The expansion was expensive but was funded through an assessment process that ranged from $6,200 to $19,400 per connection, depending on the area served.