HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County is taking steps to improve water quality for University Area residents by converting properties from septic to sewer.

The county said septic tanks are contributing to groundwater contamination that ends up in private wells, which then leeches into residents drinking and bath water.

8 On Your Side first told you about Holly Court residents who received eviction notices a year and a half ago. At that time, the landlord told residents the water at the complex was harmful.

“They were on their own drinking water supplies system, and that well failed,” said George Cassady, assistant county administrator for public utilities.

Cassady said Holly Court was the first in the University Area to be connected to the City of Tampa water, but the problem is bigger than just Holly Court.

“Sometimes when you turn that faucet on brown water comes out,” said resident Loretta Footman.

It’s an issue, Dr. Sarah Combs of the University Area Community Development Corporation, didn’t think was possible.

“We are just a couple of miles from USF, miles from huge pockets of wealth and here we have conditions that are third-world conditions right here in our community,” said Dr. Combs.

Some homes in this area have septic tanks and well water. The county said this is because this was the way to go if there wasn’t a central system available at the time.

“We know, now that that probably wasn’t the best pathway forward in developing the community,” said Cassady.

Now, the county is offering a free program to hook them into city water. There are 1,300 residential dwellings in the University Area not connected to a sewer system.

To qualify for the Hillsborough County Septic-to-Sewer program, residential dwellings in the University Area must be located within the following boundaries: Bearss Avenue to the north, Fowler Avenue to the south, Interstate 275 to the west, and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to the east. 

“We wonder why we have so many challenges in our community around health, well, if you don’t have access to clean water, and if your sanitation is leaching into the soil and groundwater that becomes a major issue, and a major problem, and something that we can fix,” Combs said.

The county said this initiative is important to protect and preserve the county’s groundwater resources. After the connection is complete, residents will become City of Tampa utility customers and begin to have a monthly utility bill, which will depend on water usage. 

To learn more or to apply, contact Elsie Lewis-Storey, program manager with Applied Sciences Consulting, Inc., at 813-228-0900, or email at elewis@appliedfl.com.