by SC Reporter Reese Holiday
After relying on septic tanks to treat wastewater on Captiva, the island now wants to move away from the tanks and connect to Sanibel’s central sewer system.
This proposal from Captiva was discussed in Tuesday’s Sanibel City Council meeting where newly elected Mayor Holly Smith showed her support. She said she wants to move forward with Captiva’s proposal, putting an emphasis on improving the two islands’ waters.
“I think that our regional water quality is what we’re all about,” Smith said in Tuesday’s Sanibel City Council meeting. “If this is a step we can help with in making sure that we are converting our [septic tanks] to sewer, and there’s a potential for that to happen between the sister islands, than I certainly continue my support.”
Discussions of Captiva moving to a central sewer system have occurred in the past, but those discussions recently resurfaced during a Captiva Community Panel meeting on Feb. 9. During this meeting, the panel brought in Kevin Ruane, Sanibel’s previous mayor and current chairman on Lee County’s Board of County Commissioners.
Ruane shared his thoughts with panel members on the topic and said a Captiva move away from septic tanks to a central sewer system would greatly benefit the water quality of both islands.
According to the Long Island Sound Study in New York, improper use of septic tanks can result in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to contaminate groundwater, which can eventually affect surface water.
Ruane also said that he has had discussions with Captiva in the past about the island’s wants for a central sewer system while he was serving on the Sanibel City Council. He said because of his involvement in those discussions, he would like to see this project be concluded as quickly as it can, despite the possibility of it taking some time.
“To me, the most important project I worked on, or the one that certainly has a lot of my handprints on, is the sewer project,” Ruane said in the Feb. 9 CCP meeting. “I want to see that get through. We’re going to really try to make sure we address all your issues, but that one I’d like to see put to bed pretty quickly.”
However, in the same meeting, CCP President Jay Brown said more planning needs to be done before any shovel breaks ground.
“Before we can go back to the property owners, we have to have a lot more of a detailed plan,” Brown said. “Much better confirmation of what the cost of the projects are going to be, allow property owners to see where all the elements of the central sewer program are going to be, how their individual properties are going to be effected and so forth.”
In Tuesday’s Sanibel City Council meeting, Councilmember John Henshaw agreed and said there are still some questions to be answered. However, much like Ruane, Henshaw also wants to see this project be completed as soon as possible.
“We need to move as quickly as we can, in my view, to get Captiva on our system and work diligently to make that happen including the interlocal agreements as quickly as we can, even though we don’t have all of the answers,” Henshaw said in Tuesday’s Sanibel City Council meeting. “It’s critical that we do that.”
Henshaw said that with his understanding, most citizens on Captiva and Sanibel approve of Captiva moving to a central sewer system. All of the Sanibel’s city council members in Tuesday’s meeting approved as well, with Vice Mayor Richard Johnson saying it’s about time for Captiva to move away from septic tanks and into central sewer.
“I think this is an opportunity for us to work together with our sister island, our closest neighbor if you will, in making sure that we provide a pathway for them to get off of the septic tank diet,” Johnson said in Tuesday’s Sanibel City Council meeting. “I think it’s long overdue, and I think it’s something that this council will want to carry this mission forward.”