Septic and Low-Pressure Sewer System Conversion Initiative

Hillsborough County is launching a program to protect groundwater and improve the quality of the region’s natural systems by eliminating septic tanks and low-pressure sewer systems in areas around the bay. Homes and businesses in these areas that currently use septic or low-pressure systems will be converted to the County’s central collection system, a program frequently referred to as septic-to-sewer. The County’s central system is reliable, sustainable, and environmentally responsible. The septic-to-sewer program is a long-term plan that aims to replace all septic and low-pressure systems within the County’s urban service area, starting with conversions in areas of highest vulnerability and environmental impact.

Why Are Some Communities on Alternative Wastewater Service?

Many neighborhoods in Hillsborough County were built before the County had wastewater service available. As a result, these areas use septic tanks or low-pressure sewer systems for collection of wastewater at homes and businesses. Several of these communities are in areas with low ground elevation and are vulnerable to storm surge and flooding.

Septic Systems

  • Septic tanks, no matter how efficient, are a source of nutrient loading to the groundwater system. Research shows that these nutrients contribute to algae blooms and other detrimental impacts to water quality.
  • Additionally, septic tank systems rely on relatively dry soil to allow for proper drainage. If the ground is saturated, the system will not operate properly. In these instances, waste can back up into the home or business or contaminate local waterways. This negative impact to public health and safety must be mitigated.

Low-Pressure Sewer Systems

  • In the 1980s, low-pressure sewer systems were initially constructed as an alternative collection system to septic tanks. At the time, these systems were considered the best option for central collection and transfer of wastewater, but over time the systems have proven to be unreliable and inefficient to operate.
  • Low-pressure systems are susceptible to failures and overflows, potentially endangering public health and safety, and low-pressure systems that are near water or sensitive estuaries may pose an immediate threat to water quality and the environment.
  • Conversion to a conventional collection system with modern technology will significantly improve the operation of these systems and ensure customers have reliable service, along with safeguarding public health and protecting the environment.

Converting Connections from Septic and Low-Pressure Sewer Systems to Central Collection System

Many communities are vulnerable to rising water and the impacts of non-functioning septic and low-pressure sewer systems. A central collection system ensures sustainable wastewater service.

Septic-to-sewer and low-pressure sewer system conversion initiatives are important to protect and preserve the county’s groundwater resources. Hillsborough County has established capital project funding for several projects:

Ruskin and Wimauma Septic-to-Sewer and Low-Pressure Sewer System Conversion Project

  • There are approximately 2,000 properties connected to septic service and approximately 1,500 low-pressure sewer properties in service in the Ruskin and Wimauma areas.
    • Each year additional properties are added to the low-pressure system as residents with failing septic tanks request conversion to low-pressure sewer.
  • Properties currently connected to a low-pressure sewer system will be connected to the new system at no additional cost to them. Properties on septic systems will be connected to the new system at costs established by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).
  • Construction for both communities is anticipated to be accomplished in phases, and will take four to five years to complete:
    • Phase 1 will construct all major pipelines and pump stations.
      • Construction on Phase 1 is expected to begin in summer 2022.
    • Phase 2 will construct pipelines to connect approximately 500 homes.
    • Future phases will construct additional pipelines and connect about 500 homes per year.
    • The project will also replace aging/failing water mains and repair roadways disturbed by construction.
  • The total estimated project budget for all phases is $94.5 million.
    • The estimated Phase 1 budget is $26 million to $30 million.
  • The design for this project is underway and currently is funded by BP Economic Settlement Funds previously approved by the BOCC.
    • The balance of Phase 1 will be funded through the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP).

Gibsonton and Palm River Septic-to-Sewer Project

  • Construction for both communities is anticipated to be accomplished in phases.
    • Phase 1 will construct all major pipelines and pump stations, along with connections to approximately 500 homes.
    • Future phases will construct additional pipelines and connect about 500 homes per year.
  • Estimated Phase 1 budget is $33 million to $40 million.
    • Gibsonton Phase 1: $25 million to $30 million.
    • Palm River Phase 1: $8 million to $10 million.
  • The design for the Gibsonton portion is underway and currently is funded by BP Economic Settlement Funds previously approved by the BOCC.
    • The balance of Phase 1 will be funded through the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) and/or grant monies, as applicable.