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We gave our review of “The Fellowship of the Springs” in an earlier post and now a larger audience will have the opportunity on Thursday, July 8 at 4 pm on WUCF. Hopefully it may have a greater effect on the viewers than it did on Mr. Connolly.
His best line from the film, however, is a great one: “We only care about what we’re paid to care about,” This is from an unnamed lobbyist in Tallahassee.
Read the complete article here in the Orlando Sentinel.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
Florida’s Freshwater Springs Are in Jeopardy, a New Documentary Suggests
Orlando Sentinel |
Jul 05, 2021 at 10:17 AM
The health and future of Florida’s natural freshwater springs may be in jeopardy, a new documentary suggests.
The two-part series, “The Fellowship of the Springs,” shines a light on the Sunshine State’s unique artesian springs, the threats to their livelihood and the efforts to save them. Both parts of the documentary will air 4-6 p.m. July 8 on WUCF in Central Florida.
Oscar Corral, the film’s director and producer, is based in Miami but fell in love with the springs when traveling with his family.
“I’m somewhat obsessed with Florida’s springs; I love them,” he said. “The springs are incredibly unique. There’s really no place on Earth that has springs like this that are this size, this pristine and under this concentration.”
In the documentary, scenes show families and friends enjoying pristine blue waters at Rock Springs, Wekiwa Springs, Devil’s Den, Weeki Wachee Springs and Blue Spring.
These “magic waters” are known as tourism destinations, as well as habitats for manatees, turtles and alligators. In addition, the Floridan Aquifer, the source of the springs, provides drinking water for a wide swath of Florida and parts of Georgia.
“We believe we have the largest concentration of artesian springs, these pressurized springs that come out of a confined aquifer, in the whole world,” said Dr. Robert Knight, director of the Florida Springs Institute. “In their natural state, they’re extremely productive aquatic systems because the water is clear and a constant temperature.”
These more than 1,000 recorded springs represent a unique habitat unseen in many parts of the world. But these beacons of tourism and sustenance in Florida are under threat….
The problems that plague Florida’s springs are multifaceted, but activists point to two main issues that need to be rectified.
“One problem is the wholesale loss of spring flow, which is caused by groundwater pumping. From Orlando north, essentially, all of the water we use is from the Floridan Aquifer,” Knight said. “Some springs have lost all their flow, other springs have lost maybe 15-20 percent. But the overall average is 32 percent for the lost flow in springs.”
This has caused some springs to essentially “die” when water stops flowing up from the aquifer. Another big problem comes from elevated nitrate levels in the springs, which can cause blooms of toxic algae. Sources of this pollution include fertilizer from agriculture, wastewater, septic tanks and urban lawns.
The documentary’s Orlando airing comes on the heels of an assessment from the Florida Springs Council, which states that the Florida Legislature has woefully underfunded projects to restore spring water quality and quantity.
There’s an unwillingness among water management district boards, often staffed with agriculture and big business owners, to slow the rate of groundwater pumping or fix the problems plaguing springs, Corral said.
“The state could do a lot more to help the springs. And yet, every time that they’ve developed some sort of legislation to help the springs, it has no teeth and nothing is really getting done,” he said. “It’s almost like paying lip service to the springs without actually having to make any of the difficult decisions.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appears in the film, as does current Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
“Our priorities in the last 70 years have been on development and business and trying to create an economy here,” Fried says in the film. “What we didn’t do is prioritize the environment as we were doing that.”
In part two of the documentary, “Blue Rebellion,” Corral travels to Tallahassee and interviews legislators inside the Florida State Capitol. He finds that some of them have heard of the springs but haven’t dedicated significant time or resources to the issue.
He then finds an unidentified lobbyist to talk with.
“We only care about what we’re paid to care about,” the man says to Corral.
Hope for the future
The state of springs may seem bleak when considering the amount of time, effort and political willpower it would take to correct the most pressing issues affecting Florida’s freshwater.
“There’s very little to be hopeful about right now. This is the apathy of the public and the overt moneymaking attitude of the politicians and businesses,” Knight said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t change, so I’m not going to stop trying.”
Other activists have struck a more hopeful tone, such as Michelle “Michi” Colson, a professional mermaid and springs advocate.
“If we want to live here, if we want to have a Florida in 20 or 30 years, we have to do something different,” she said. “Nestle isn’t too big, Ginnie Springs isn’t too big. The governor isn’t too big. There’s no entity big enough that we can’t fight against.”
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is a business owner and activist based in Fort White who has spent countless hours attending public meetings to speak up for Florida’s environment.
“It’s going to be a grassroots effort that protects the spring. We can do a lot,” Malwitz-Jipson said. “Nature comes back. It’s pretty resilient if you leave it alone. But the human footprint is big … We need to be understanding our responsibilities.”