AVON PARK – They’re vacant beaches and lakefronts on two mostly undeveloped lakes in north Avon Park and that’s just what the city needs to get percolating.
The city is looking to acquire 70 acres of land between orange groves near Lake Anoka south to Lake Lelia to increase the capacity for treating wastewater from the wastewater treatment plant.
Thirty acres would be used for percolation ponds and the remaining 40 would be for recreational purposes.
A percolation pond, like an irrigation tank, has a structure that captures rainwater flowing through a watershed, and a wasteweir to dispose of the surplus flow.
Actual raw wastewater won’t be part of the deal, stressed Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon.
He said the proposed construction of percolation ponds would be for “high quality, pristine, treated water” and would not be “waste” ponds. He said Thursday the city has a wastewater treatment facility which processes raw, untreated wastewater sewer. After an “extensive” treatment processes, a “high-quality, pristine effluent” is sent to percolation ponds for infiltration into the soil.
Deleon said currently the treatment plant processes about 700,000 gallons of sewer refuse daily.
Current percolation ponds are permitted for 800,000 gallons of treated effluent per day, due to the geologic makeup of the ponds. He said the city has looked at options to buy property for the excess water, even considering building a spray field at the Avon Park Executive Airport.
However, the city is instead considering purchasing the lakefront land for $16,000 per acre or a total of about $1.2 million.
Deleon said he suggested the city use $480,000 from its utility fund to pay for the lakefront property and the remaining $640,000 from infrastructure funding for what would be used for recreation.
“Reclaimed water from wastewater treatment plants is commonly used today to irrigate golf courses, parks and residential lawns. In our case, we are doing the next best thing, which allows the treated and finished water to gradually infiltrate into the earth and recharge the aquifer,” he said.
Deleon said Avon Park’s $15 million wastewater treatment facility, 2504 S. U.S. 27, converts raw, untreated wastewater into a “finished, recycled water product” that is “a high-quality clear, odorless and disinfected product.”
“We do not apply waste to our ponds,” he said. Waste ponds are not allowed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “The treated water discharged from our plant is monitored using real-time telemetry technology to ensure environmental compliance at all times.”
Maria Sutherland, Avon Park’s director of administrative services, said she thought the purchase and use of the sites would benefit the inevitable growth in the city and it would be “planning for the future.” She said the recreational aspect of the purchase would be an added bonus and the land could be used for “passive” recreational use like walking and hiking nature trails.
“It would be indispensable for growth,” she said.
Avon Park Councilman Garrett Anderson said he was concerned about the mitigation capacity of the land bought and used for percolation. He said Deleon indicated it would make room for about twice what is now available and should last for a long time. He said Thursday he felt the selling price is high and until he has “hard numbers” he still questioned the viability of the purchase.
“On the surface, from what I’ve seen so far, it seems like a good idea,” he said. “I am in favor of getting a piece of property for that use. I would much rather get a lake or pond other than having it at the airport.”
Highlands County Engineer Ramon Gavarette said he doesn’t know of any other municipalities using lakefront land for percolation pond effluent infiltration.