By Larry Barszewski

One of two deep injection wells at Ocean Ridge’s largest wastewater package treatment plant has been out of service for more than a year, which officials say could leave three communities uninhabitable were the plant’s second well to malfunction.

The Colonial Crown Manor Wastewater Treatment Facility services 290 residential units in Crown Colony, Colonial Ridge and Ocean Manor.

Wastewater issues are not new in town or in some other barrier island communities, which have grappled for years with whether or how to replace package plants or septic systems — which potentially threaten the coastal environment — with some type of sewer system.

“If a failure did occur, we would need to abandon the three communities, all 290 units, making $100 million worth of property unusable,” said Ron Kirn, president of Colonial

Crown Manor Disposal Systems Inc., in a statement read by Commissioner Carolyn Cassidy at the Nov. 6 Town Commission meeting.

Kirn’s statement said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection may yet approve the necessary permits to replace the injection well, but that within a decade the department may require an upgrade to an “Advanced Waste Treatment” status, which Kirn said could cost about $1.5 million. The failed injection well was originally completed in 1984.

Other communities with injection wells or plants that use drain fields could “experience this same nightmare” in the future, he said.

“It is clear that the FDEP does not want these plants or septic systems in either single or multifamily homes. These outrageous costs and bureaucracy is hoping that towns will be pressured into installing municipal sewer systems where mandates have yet to be issued,” Kirn said.

Ocean Ridge has discussed the possibility of hooking up to Boynton Beach’s sewer systems or finding another alternative. Kirn was a member of a septic-to-sewer committee the commission appointed to investigate the issue. That committee’s chairman made a report to commissioners at their May 1 meeting, but the commission took no action at the time.

“We really need to start considering Boynton Beach sewers and getting away from septic systems,” said Paul Smith, who lives at Crown Colony Club, at the Nov. 6 commission meeting. “I installed septic systems in New Jersey, so I know a lot about them and I just think it’s time. I mean, this whole town is built out, so every home is on a system. It’s just mind-boggling to me that we haven’t considered this earlier.”

The town has set aside $924,943 from the county’s local infrastructure sales-tax proceeds as a start to dealing with a septic-to-sewer conversion, but there have been questions about whether or when the state will mandate such a conversion.

Cassidy said the town of Sebastian is now under orders by the state to convert.

A new law called the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program is requiring residences still on septic tanks in Indian River County, including Sebastian, to hook up to available sewer lines or to install enhanced nutrient-reducing onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems by 2030.

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