Groups oppose Nestle permit

johnmoranginniescuba In: Groups oppose Nestle permit | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
SCUBA divers at Ginnie Springs. Photo by John Moran.

Since the Suwannee River Water Management District ignored the public outcry against Seven Springs Water Company and Nestle, two groups are taking legal action.

Read the complete article in the Gainesville Sun.

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Groups oppose Nestle permit

One lawsuit filed, another on the way

Cindy Swirko

Gainesville Sun USA TODAY NETWORK  March 18, 2021

The Nestle water bottling plant near Ginnie Springs is once again the focus of a legal complaint, this one filed by environmental groups contesting the issuing of a permit to enable increased pumping.

Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit that will test Florida law in regard to transferring water off-site for profit may be filed today.

Our Santa Fe River and the Florida Springs Council have raised two issues in their complaint challenging a permit approved Feb. 23 by the Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board.

First is a contention Seven Springs Water Co., which has the permit, cannot pump from its property and pipe to the Nestle plant because it then has no control over the water and cannot ensure compliance with permit conditions. Second is a belief that the pumping is not a reasonable and beneficial use of state water in the best interest of Florida residents.

“I think they are equally important issues because they are both requirements in district rules or state law that are not being fulfilled,” council Executive Director Ryan Smart said. “The district’s own attorneys argued in their court case that the permit should not be granted because Seven Springs did not have ownership or control of the bottling facility.”

District spokeswoman Lindsey Covington said only that staff and the board’s attorney are reviewing the petition.

Seven Springs is owned by members of the family that own the Ginnie Springs Outdoors recreation complex. It has had a district permit since 1988 to pump water to the nearby bottling plant, which was bought by Nestle in January 2019.

Nestle plans to add lines to expand capacity and wants to get more water than has historically been pumped….

The new complaint follows state procedures in asking the district to conduct an informal hearing on the issues being raised.

If the district dismisses it, the groups can appeal to a district court. More

commonly, the petition is forwarded for a state administrative case, Smart said.

Nestle and its employees say the company provides good jobs and is active in various community projects to help the High Springs area.

However, public comment on the permit has been overwhelmingly opposed.

The lower Santa Fe River is under a recovery plan in part because of declining water levels. Critics contend increased pumping will worsen that.

A consultant’s report for Seven Springs said the pumping will have minimal impact on water levels.

Critics also are ankled that state water is being pumped and sold for profit by bottlers including Nestle without the state being paid for it.

Seven Springs pays a nominal permitting fee to the district, but the state gets nothing.

A separate potential suit by Our Santa Fe River and Florida Defenders of the Environment would test the legality of shifting water off the land from which it was pumped.

Gainesville attorney Joe Little said Wednesday he may file the suit as early as today.

Water in the aquifer and along rivers is considered to be owned by the state, which grants property owners a reasonable right to use it for household needs, agriculture or recreation.

If water is being sold for purposes offsite from where it was drawn, the state should be paid for it, Little said in a recent interview.

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