JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Following an I-TEAM report that aired Thursday on News4Jax, there has been a lot of input from viewers about a promise made 51 years ago from the city of Jacksonville to phase out septic tanks in families’ homes, which were supposed to be connected to city sewer services.
The I-TEAM on Friday got a better timeline from JEA as to where the utility and city are in the process, but there are still a lot of questions as to why this infrastructure still doesn’t exist in three neighborhoods that are occupied by predominantly black families.
It comes after several members of Mt. Bethel church in the Northside’s Christobel neighborhood told the I-TEAM that they can remember their parents being promised city sewer services in the late 1960s.
Here is the latest timeline of action that the I-TEAM received from JEA regarding the phaseout of 65,000 septic tanks in three neighborhoods:
The first project on the calendar is the Biltmore neighborhood in ZIP code 32254, where a town hall is going to be scheduled for late November, with construction starting in late November, as well.
The second project in line is Beverly Hills in ZIP code 32208, where JEA officials said the plan is currently in design.
The third neighborhood is Christobel, which is also in the 32208 ZIP code, where nothing planned is on the calendar, as JEA said it is still waiting on direction from the city.
On Thursday, Christobel residents told the ITEAM they feel intentionally neglected by current and past Jacksonville administrations when they look around and see development in other parts of town.
“They would do better for us if we were on the Southside,” said Christobel resident Yvonne Ward. “We’re not on the Southside. We’re on the Northside and we can’t go anywhere because we are elderly people that live in the neighborhood.”
Northside Coalition spokesman Ben Frazier had this to say about the city’s septic tank phaseout program:
“The city should stop beating around the bush and accelerate its program. The city’s failure to follow through and make good on consolidation era promises is racially discriminatory. The city should allocate more money to get the job done, especially in areas of critical need.”
The mayor’s office had not responded as of Friday. But it’s important to point out that residents don’t only think the septic tanks diminish their quality of life — failing septic tanks are also responsible for the nitrogen runoff into the St. Johns River, which results in algae blooms. It’s still unclear how the city and JEA plan to finish all the septic phaseouts because according to the I-TEAM’s math, they are still more than $11 million short of the funds it would take to follow through on their promise to the three neighborhoods.