An established neighborhood in the historic city Rockledge in Brevard County is on the forefront of an initiative to help protect the Indian River Lagoon.  Immediately south of Cocoa and having a total population of roughly 26,000, Rockledge occupies a front row seat along the Indian River.  With financial help from the State of Florida, Rockledge is currently converting septic systems of over 140 homes between U.S. 1 and the Indian River to the city’s sewer system.  The ultimate goal is to switch almost 370 septic systems in the enclave to the municipal lines.  

This project, like a few others, should help reduce nutrients leaching into the Indian River.  In the case of the Rockledge project, it is estimated the conversions will help prohibit over ten tons of nitrogen and one ton of phosphorous from slivering into the Indian River annually.  It is believed nitrogen and phosphorous fuel algae blooms which can lead to fish kills, sea-grass die-offs, and other habitat destruction.  Other septic removal or conversion projects around the state – in different stages - include those in Vero Beach, Jensen Beach, Islamorada, and Ocala, to name a few.  The newly formed Indian River Lagoon Council has made septic system eradication its highest priority, and agrees that septic systems in all communities along the Lagoon should eventually be eliminated.

 Paul Berube, owner of Boaters Exchange based in Rockledge, was born and raised along the Indian River Lagoon.  Whenever his schedule permits, Paul takes his kids to the same spoil islands near Sebastian Inlet where his father took him when he was growing up.  “As both a boat dealer and a recreational fisherman, I am proud Rockledge is taking significant action to help our Lagoon.  It gives me some hope it will one day be vibrant again for my grandkids,” Paul said.  Berube added he hopes other municipalities along the lagoon make septic conversion projects a priority.  

State funds for the Rockledge project were secured from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District in 2014, ultimately financed by Florida tax-payers.  CCA Florida continues to support efforts like Rockledge’s, and those in other towns, to eradicate dated and tired septic tanks and drain fields in favor of contemporary sewer systems.  Along the Indian River, there are still thousands of septic systems, many aging, and many likely leaching tons of unwanted nutrients into the estuary every year.  Perhaps with Rockledge’s lead, other municipalities in the five counties that claim the IRL as part of their footprint can take similar steps.

CCA Florida applauds the town of Rockledge, and also supports other efforts in the region to streamline permitting for sewer improvements, septic system conversions, and muck dredging.  Storm water run-off, another known source of unwanted nutrients flowing into Florida waters, needs to be ultimately addressed as well.  Fish will be much happier and more abundant should human beings ever cease and desist actions which contribute to the degradation of their habitat.