9 Investigates the effects of uninspected septic systems on the environment

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The state of Florida is facing a lawsuit over unregulated septic systems near the Indian River Lagoon.

Investigative reporter Christopher Heath asked looked into the possible long-term dangers if Florida doesn't enforce its rules.

Derek Woodruff of Brownie's Septic & Plumbing is the last man most homeowners want to see standing in their front yard. That is, until something goes wrong.

"Sometimes you won't know you have a problem until you get some saturation or smell out in the yard," said Woodruff.

Woodruff showed Heath a septic system where roots found their way. Woodruff said it's unknown how much waste escaped before he and his crew arrived.

Without inspections there is no way to know if a septic system is about to fail, until it does.

"You got several thousand (septic systems) just in the city of Orlando that are failing every year and that's not counting the ones that are failed and not being repaired," said Mark Barhonovich of Brownie's Septic & Plumbing.

In 2010, the Florida Legislature mandated septic inspections to be performed every five years starting in 2016.

But, amid pressure from realtors, home builders and home owners, counties were given an opt-out. Every county has since, opted out.

"It's business as usual. We're trying to save money," said Christopher Byrd, a former attorney with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (:03)

Byrd said the state has known for years about the danger of failing septic tanks, but continues to side-step the problem.

"Some of these tanks are 30, 40, 50 years old and have never been pumped out," said Byrd.

The state is now considering spending more than $500,000 million to clean up spring and other water-ways, but no money to inspect or fix the estimated 500,000 broken septic systems.

"It's just not catastrophic enough," said Barhonovich.

There are almost 3,000,000 septic tanks in Florida, and according to the state, less than 1 percent are inspected.

The cost to homeowners for the inspections would be between $300 and $500 every five years, about many people pay to be on sewer each year.