Are septic tanks contributing to the algae problem?

Reporter: Taylor Petras
Published: Updated:

Some are asking the question, are the septic tanks in our yards making the algae problem in our waterways worse?

Scientists say leaking septic tanks aren’t the sole cause of the algae, but do contribute to the problem.

Conall Stapleton with Stapleton Septic spent the day making repairs to a septic tank at a Bonita Springs home.

“It doesn’t take much sewage to offend somebody.” Stapleton says when people see problems with their septic tanks, they usually want it fixed right away, “They deal with it quickly because they don’t want the sewage in their yard, in their house.”

That’s why he says any problems with septic tanks aren’t contributing to the green algae we’re seeing in our waterways, “If the tanks were the problems, we’d be condemning more than 1 percent of what we’re looking at and we’re not doing that.”

Stapleton says they rarely run into leaking tanks.

He says it usually a back up in people’s yards and the amount of wastewater isn’t enough, “I think it’s just something easy to throw up there and distract from the real issue.”

Dr. Bill Mitsch, at Florida Gulf Coast University points to another cause, “Agriculture is the culprit. That’s the reason we have everything green down here.”

Mitsch is the director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park at FGCU. He adds that septic tanks only play a small role in what’s causing the algae in our waters.

He’s more concerned about runoff from agriculture, “Compared to agriculture it’s minimal. We need to take care of them. Any civilized society should be able to take care of management of septic tanks.”

Stapleton says having them pumped and maintained every few years should be enough and says you’ll know if there’s a leak in your tank.

The Florida Department of Health says it has nearly 40,000 septic systems on record in Lee County.

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