Springs Plan Lacks Real Enforcement

SilverSprngs boat
Silver Springs about 1901

Thanks to Dr. Robert Knight of Florida Springs Council who sent the link to the following article in the Ocala Star Banner.  OSFR had previously posted on this: ” Misleading Headlines in the Gainesville Sun.

Editorial: Springs plan lacks real enforcement

Published: Saturday, August 1, 2015 at 7:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 1, 2015 at 7:01 p.m.
Every time the Florida Department of Environmental Protection rolls out the latest update of its plan to rescue Silver Springs from nitrate pollution and overpumping, it sounds so proactive, so scientific, so official.

Then those who study the science of our springs start drilling down and asking questions, and what they discover is that DEP’s impressive sounding Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) is heavy on well-intended suggestions and light on regulatory compliance.

DEP held a public meeting last week to update the community on the progress of the Silver Springs BMAP. The goal is pretty straight forward: reduce the nitrate levels in the springs and Silver River by 79 percent to .35 milligrams per liter. It is an ambitious target.

From its analysis of the sprawling Silver Springs Basin, which covers much of Marion County and parts of Alachua, Putnam, Sumter and Lake counties, DEP knows much of what must be done to achieve .35 mg. Consider:

• There are an estimated 66,000 septic tanks in the BMAP footprint and they are responsible for an estimated 38 percent of the nitrate pollution.

• Cattle farms are the source of 17 percent of the nitrate loading, while crop fertilizers account for 11 percent.

• Stormwater runoff and residential fertilizers also contribute to the nitrate pollution that has caused Silver Springs’ once silvery floor to become covered in brown algae — not unlike most other Florida springs.

Now, to be fair, DEP and the St. Johns River Water Management District have been working to generate funding to make wastewater disposal improvements to our community, spending millions to upgrade treatment plants, remove nitrates from treated wastewater and to move sprayfields away from the springs.

But a team of scientists and longtime springs advocates affiliated with the Silver Springs Alliance have analyzed the BMAP and what they tells us is that the plan falls short of providing the standards and protections necessary to restore Silver Springs. In the words of the environmentalist Guy Marwick, “Presumption of compliance is a weak way of looking at it. … It’s going to take inspections to make it work,”

Lisa Saupp, a local water scientist, added that regular, nonpunitive monitoring of specific pollution points is imperative for the BMAP to succeed. Otherwise, she said, “How can we ensure BMAP is nothing more than a document?”

Moreover, the Alliance team says that of the $216 million in BMAP projects proposed, most of them are so far unfunded — and that amount only addresses 43 percent of the nitrogen problem. Funding 100 percent of the BMAP needs and have any hope of achieving 79 percent reduction, they say, would cost more than $660 million.

Staggering numbers for a staggering problem. As we must remind our readers, the water coming out of Silver Springs is the same water we drink.

So the BMAP is a great sounding idea that is woefully short on enforcement and economic reality. Meanwhile, we keep doing the very same things that have gotten our springs to this diminished state. No fertilizer restrictions. No septic tank remediation plan. No slowdown in issuing water pumping permits (see Sleepy Creek Lands). No regulation on agriculture fertilization or manure disposal.

DEP knows the cause of the nitrate pollution, and has a bevy of great suggestions for slowing it. But making a suggestion and aggressively attacking the problem are two entirely different things.

Andy Kesselring, a former county commission and ex-Silver Springs Alliance president, wrote us with this BMAP assessment:

“As currently proposed, we are still going to be talking about the same problems years from now.” We are afraid he is right.

DEP needs to strengthen the Silver Springs BMAP and make it more than a bunch of nice suggestions.

 This post rendered with LFS
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