By Rich Pollack
Along the barrier island, leaders in Ocean Ridge are trying to determine if it’s time to seriously consider hooking up to the regional wastewater treatment facility, through neighboring Boynton Beach.
Most of the homes in town are either on septic systems or are served by package plants, which are small facilities that treat sewage from multifamily communities.
To figure out if it makes sense to connect to a regional system, Ocean Ridge has created a Septic to Sewer Citizens Advisory Committee. It is researching what exists in town and the experiences of other municipalities that have replaced septic systems with connections to regional facilities.
So far, 14 package plants have been identified in town.
The Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County is unable to provide an estimate of how many individual septic systems exist in Ocean Ridge and surrounding communities because some of those systems were installed more than half a century ago.
Department records, however, show that from September of last year until late last month, seven new septic systems were installed in Ocean Ridge. Four of those are advanced or aerobic treatment systems.
Although it is very early in the process, it is likely that converting from septic to sewer in Ocean Ridge will be disruptive and costly — if it ever does happen.
During the committee’s first meeting, in July, representatives from the city of Boynton Beach presented preliminary plans for what the conversion could look like.
To get sewage from the barrier island, Boynton Beach would install two large pipes under the Intracoastal Waterway.
In Ocean Ridge there would be either a traditional gravity and force main system or a vacuum collection system. The latter would require vacuum pits possibly shared by homes and then several central vacuum tanks throughout the town.
With a traditional gravity and force main system, pipes would be run under the roadways and lift stations would be installed.
Boynton Beach in its preliminary proposal said the gravity and force main system seemed to be the most cost effective for five condominiums south of Woolbright Road, while the vacuum collection system seemed the most cost effective for the remainder of Ocean Ridge.
For the five condominiums at the south end, based on conceptual plans, the cost is estimated at $2 million with the gravity and force main system; and for the rest of the town, the cost is estimated to be a little over $20 million.
There would also likely be additional costs to homeowners, including connection fees and the expense of decommissioning existing septic systems.
To help with costs, the advisory committee is exploring what government or private grants might be available.
The advisory committee is scheduled to meet again at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 18 at Ocean Ridge Town Hall.