The following article which appeared in the News Journal Online, continues the abundant criticism of the hurried-up BMAP proposals required to be in place by July 1, 2018. Some of these include the following:
mathematical mistakes and miscalculations
failure to address certain issues required by law
failure to provide funding for some
goals are unrealistic and can’t be met, or inadequate to restore springs
benefits of projects exaggerated and not realistic
Drew Bartlett, from the DEP, fends off the criticism in a very weak fashion; he never says the goals will be met. He says the projects “…achieve reductions toward what is needed to meet the water quality standard, and that they will “…reduce pollution.”
A safe statement. What is not stated here and should be remembered, is that if the goals are not met, nothing happens. So the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act appears to be a totally toothless law.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
As a June 30 deadline nears for the state to adopt action plans to improve water quality in Florida’s “outstanding” springs, environmental advocates and others are raising red flags, saying the plans are “unrealistic” and “overly optimistic.”
Volusia County, the Florida Springs Council, Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience and others sent letters to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection outlining concerns with the plans the department published in recent weeks, including the plans for DeLeon Springs and Gemini Springs.
“The general conclusion of all the groups is these aren’t going to clean up the springs,” said Bob Palmer, chairman of the Springs Council’s legislative committee. “We know that the reductions they’re saying are needed to reduce (the nitrogen) at the spring vents are inadequate.”
The groups dispute the way the state calculates the movement of nitrogen from the surface of the ground, for example in fertilizer or a septic tank drain field, through the aquifer and into the water that flows out of springs.
The department defended its plans — called “basin management action plans” — last week and intends to meet the June 30 deadline to adopt them, which was put into place by legislators two years ago.
“While it’s a monumental milestone, it’s one we’re prepared to hit,” said Drew Bartlett, the department’s deputy secretary for ecosystem restoration.
State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who represents Southwest Volusia County, co-authored the 2016 legislation, dubbed the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act. It required the department to designate “outstanding Florida springs,” review the status of 30 springs to see if they were impaired and then to approve action plans if they were. In Volusia County, Blue Spring, DeLeon Springs and Gemini Springs are designated outstanding springs and declared impaired.
Statewide, 24 of the 30 springs reviewed were declared impaired because of high levels of nitrogen in the water. Too much nitrogen in the springs fuels algae growth that smothers underwater plants and can leave spring runs awash in green slime. While nitrogen is naturally occurring, the presence of human waste, fertilizer on lawns and farms and other human-related activities increase the nitrates that wind up in spring water.
The only springs that weren’t considered impaired after the department’s review were in remote area such as the Ocala National Forest or small rural counties in North Florida, Bartlett said. Ultimately, the department developed 13 basin action plans, with some that address more than one spring.
“The plans have identified the sources and are putting in place specific projects,” said Bartlett. “There are a number of projects — stormwater projects, septic projects and agriculture projects — that are specifically adopted in the (basin management action plans) that will achieve reductions toward what’s needed to meet the water quality standard.”
They’re also adding programs to reduce pollution from septic, fertilizer and wastewater treatment plants, Bartlett said. The department’s stated focus is to require reductions “across the landscape for all sources in order to achieve the reductions necessary at the spring vent.”
The department conducted more than 80 public meetings across the state and shared the draft plans and accepted public comments. But throughout the process, advocacy groups have raised concerns, including questioning whether meetings were adequately noticed in advance and about the accessibility to supporting documents. The groups also say the projects aren’t specific enough and many have not yet been funded.
In his letter to the state, Clay Henderson, executive director of Stetson University’s water institute, said the state’s proposal doesn’t identify a financially feasible plan for reducing nitrogen, failed to identify specific projects to replace septic tanks, and “significantly exaggerated” the benefits of the projects proposed to reduce nitrogen.
The groups say the amount of nitrogen the department wants to see reduced at the ground level is far short of what’s needed to meet the targets for the water flowing out of the springs.
“Volusia County pointed it out, Stetson pointed it out, and people in other groups pointed it out,” said Palmer. “Some of the concerns are math, some are simply the law requires them to address X, Y and Z and they’re not addressing X, Y and Z.”
The groups also cited typographical errors and mislabeling on documents.
Despite concerns in her letter to the department, Ginger Adair, the county’s environmental management director said she thinks the state is going to do “the best they can in the time they have.”
“The plans are intended to be dynamic,” Adair said. “As long as we have the opportunity to make corrections as the science improves, at least we’re doing good things in the meantime.”
As it is, some of the proposed projects are going to be “hugely expensive,” she said, and aren’t yet funded. Adair said she hopes the state and the water management district will continue to partner with the county to pay for some of the projects such as a multi-million dollar septic tank replacement proposal.
The state is reviewing all the comments it received and is making adjustments to the draft plans where necessary, Bartlett said.
The department used research conducted by the University of Florida and the water management districts and others, to look at how actions taken on the surface would be reflected in water flowing from the springs, he said. “When we calculate benefits, we have to root them in science. The science we used is reflected directly in the basin management action plans.”
Department officials said the plans are reviewed each year and formally updated every five years. Changes can be made as the department continues to understand more about the relationship between the springs and the pollutant sources, Bartlett said. “It’s not like we don’t touch any of them again.”
But the environmental advocates aren’t sure they want to wait five years, Palmer said. “If they don’t change, and (the plans) still have these various problems, then these groups are going to have to look at this and say what are our prospects of bringing a challenge, or winning a challenge.”