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Frequently Asked Questions
Environmental Resources Permitting Changes 10-01-2013
Frequently Asked Questions

What is Domestic Wastewater?
Every time you flush your toilet, wash your hands, turn on the dishwasher or do your laundry, you are creating domestic wastewater. Before 1950, all domestic wastewater was disposed of through septic systems or direct discharge of treated waste to area waterways. Today, while some Broward residents still use septic tanks, most households are connected through the sanitary sewers to a local utility's sewage treatment plant. Maintenance of the lateral pipe running from the home to sewer service and/or of a septic system is generally the homeowner's responsibility (Permitting information: laterals - contact your local wastewater utility by locating your sanitary sewer provider on the environmental atlas; septic systems - contact the Broward County Branch of the Florida Department of Health at 954/467-4700 for maintenance information or a construction permit). DER's Domestic Wastewater Program licenses all facilities downstream of the lateral including sanitary sewer pipes, pumps, and treatment plants in Broward County .

Who handles my sewer service?
In Broward County, 28 different utilities direct domestic wastewater (sewage) to 14 wastewater treatment plants. A map of the sanitary sewer service areas can be found in the environmental atlas.

What is the difference between sanitary sewers and stormwater sewers?
Under the streets of Broward County is a maze of pipes. Each pipe is specially coded for its function and sized to meet the service needs of a given area. Sanitary sewers convey wastewater (domestic sewage, wash water, and anything else you put down the drain in your home) to a local utility's sewage treatment plant. A pipe from your home (lateral) connects to a larger pipe (gravity main) in the street, alley or other utility easement. Maintenance of the lateral is generally the homeowner's responsibility. The contents of the gravity main flow to a lift station which pumps the wastewater into a force main. Under pressure, the sewage is conveyed to the treatment plant. The system is constructed to protect the public health by preventing untreated sewage from leaking out into the environment.

Unlike the sanitary sewer system, the stormwater sewer system is an open system designed to collect water and prevent flooding. Grates, gutters and outfalls in the roads convey rainfall to large gravity pipes which eventually lead to a wet retention area, canal, lake or other surface water body. Some municipalities do use pumps in low-lying areas to move standing water and prevent flooding.

Both of these systems are designed for a specific purpose, are meant to be kept separate, and will not function properly if foreign objects are introduced. Occasionally, homeowner's sewage pipes are illegally connected to the stormwater system. This leads to pollution of our waterways. Introduction of stormwater into the sanitary sewer system overwhelms the treatment plant, reduces the effectiveness of the treatment and threatens public health and it is illegal. Never dispose of debris or chemicals down your home drains. Likewise never dump or dispose of anything down a storm drain as it is against the County Code to discharge into waters of the County. For more information about safe disposal of most household chemicals, contact the Waste and Recycling Services (WRS) at their Household Hazardous Waste HOTLINE at 954/765-4999.

How do I find out about your regulations?
The Development and Environmental Regulation Division (DER) is governed by Chapter 27 of the Broward County Code of Ordinances. Most of the Water Resources Regulations are contained in Article V. Chapter 27 can be accessed electronically at Municipal Code Corporation.

Applications: The Domestic Wastewater program licenses three activities:

  1. Construction of Domestic Wastewater Collection/Transmission Systems;
  2. Completion of Construction of Domestic Wastewater Collection/Transmission Systems; and
  3. Notice of Intent to use General Permit for Wastewater Collection/Transmission Systems.

Those interested in obtaining a permit for reuse distribution systems should fill out the standard permit for collection/transmission systems. Applications are available electronically and include the fee schedule for licensing. Guidance documents on completing the Wastewater Collection/Transmission System Construction License Application and Notification Procedures for Reporting Wastewater Facility Spills are also provided.

Local Utility Flows:

New developments and redevelopment projects in Broward County must make a domestic wastewater capacity reservation at the local utility Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) prior to building new structures. The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) tracks existing flows to the WWTP as well as capacity reserved for new development. When a utility's total % capacity is 90% or more, development interests need to closely coordinate with the utility in their service area to determine if additional treatment or disposal capacity will be available in the future.

The Wastewater Treatment Plant Flows vs. Permitted Capacity table contains the actual wastewater flow information recorded and submitted by WWTPs. Added to these flows are the committed wastewater flow generation estimates for their service areas. These flow estimates are retrieved from the construction permit applications received at the Building Department for the respective WWTP service areas. The summed wastewater flows are presented in comparison with the permitted capacity. This table will be updated quarterly.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Flows vs. Permitted Capacity (PDF) (WORD)

What is Surface Water Management?
Many of the earlier developments in Broward County were built on filled wetlands with storm sewers or ditches draining directly from the streets to our local waterways. Houses and businesses often flooded and untreated storm runoff impacted water quality on our canals and rivers. Today, regulatory criteria for surface water management systems serving developments are set to provide adequate flood control (water quantity) and remove pollutants from storm runoff (water quality). Surface water management (drainage) systems can contain storm drains, street gutters, weirs, sluice gates, dams, pumps, swales, French drains (a.k.a. exfiltration trenches), culverts, drainage wells, dry retention areas, and storm runoff treatment lakes or wetlands. A combination of these facilities is typically utilized to design a surface water management system to meet water quality and water quantity criteria. The Water Resources Division's Surface Water Management Program licenses new developments and major redevelopment projects in those areas of the county outside of independent drainage districts (please see the map of drainage districts on the environmental atlas).

Do single family homeowners need a permit?
Homeowners qualify under Section 403.9325 FS to trim mangroves in the riparian mangrove fringe that are up to 10 feet tall. If the waterfront is up to 150 feet long, all the mangroves that are under 10 feet tall can be trimmed to a minimum height of 6 feet. If the waterfront is over 150 feet long then 65% of the mangroves or roughly two of every three may be trimmed. Homeowners who have waterfront mangroves that are over 10 feet tall but under 24 feet can also trim without a license but only if they utilize the services of a professional mangrove trimmer.

These activities are exempt from permitting requirements. Any trimming activities that do not fit this criteria are not exempt. The homeowner should contact the Broward County Aquatic and Wetlands Resources Section at (954) 519-1483 to get more information on licensing requirements.

What about mangroves trimmed prior to 1996?
Mangroves that were trimmed prior to the promulgation of Section 403.9321 - 403.9333 FS can be maintained at their post trimmed height provided there is proof of prior authorization and/or documentation.

What is the minimum height that mangroves can be trimmed?
Mangroves cannot be trimmed below 6 feet in height.

What is the maximum height of trees that can be trimmed without a permit?
Trees over 24 feet tall cannot be trimmed without a license.

When do I need a professional mangrove trimmer?
A professional mangrove trimmer must either supervise or conduct all trimming of trees that exceed 10 feet in height. They are ISA certified arborists, professional wetland scientists certified by the Society of Wetland Scientists, certified ecologists certified by the Ecological Society of America and other qualified individuals.

What about trimming for navigational purposes?
A license is required for the limited trimming of mangroves within existing navigational channels, basins or canals.

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