ECUA awarded $11 million for septic to sewer projects in Brownsville and Warrington

Jim Little
Pensacola News Journal

The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority will receive more than $11 million for septic to sewer conversions in Brownsville and the Warrington areas.

Earlier this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced 92 grant awards totaling $481 million to improve water quality across the state. ECUA will receive five of those grants for septic to sewer conversion projects.

"The ECUA's mission is to promote the quality of life of the Emerald Coast by providing water, wastewater, and sanitation services in an effective and efficient manner," ECUA Executive Director Bruce Woody said in a press release announcing the grants. "ECUA is delighted to receive this grant, which together with our matching funds, will create a meaningful impact for the area's residents and customers of ECUA."

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ECUA said the five projects will provide new sewer connections to 1,250 properties. Those properties are currently on septic systems that can leach harmful bacteria into the local watersheds of Bayou Chico and Bayou Grande.

"These awards are going to make a big difference for our world-renowned springs and water quality all throughout the state of Florida," DeSantis said Nov. 9 when the state announced the grants. "Florida's water resources are what our economy runs on — they are an economic driver, but even apart from that, our environment is really integral to what these communities are all about. We're blessed to have it and we have a responsibility to leave it better than we found it."

The $481 million in grants comes from both state and federal funds. The five grants ECUA is receiving are coming from federal funds that are administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Three of the five ECUA grants will go toward projects in the Brownville community and will provide $6.46 million toward projects totaling $12.92 million.

A $2.75 million grant will go toward a sewer project in the Patton Drive area north of Gulf Beach Highway for a $5.5 million project.

A $2.53 million grant will go toward a sewer project in the Navy Boulevard area near Bayou Chico for a $5.06 million project.

The grants require 50% matching funds from the organizations receiving them.

ECUA Chairwoman Lois Benson told the News Journal that the ECUA board voted to raise sewer rates by 2.5% earlier this year to provide matching funds for the grants.

"We wanted those granting agencies to know that we had a commitment to this," Benson said. "It wasn't just coming to them with our palm up. It was us saying we are committed to this and we are investing in this community as well."

Benson said members of the Brownsville community have been advocating for sewer connections for years.

"Brownsville has a rich history in this community," Benson said. "It was the center of commerce for many, many years, and the limiting factor for many businesses in Brownsville is that they are on septic. And to bring sewer lines, both to the businesses and to the residences, I hope will jumpstart redevelopment in that great community."

Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.