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A total of three hundred eighty-four thousand (384,000) signatures against Nestle’s permit renewal brought by SumOfUs, which included two hundred twenty-six, two hundred eight thousand (226,208) from Change.org brought by Lindsey Dank and Amanda Sapp were handed over to Hugh Thomas, Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District Tues. Dec. 10 in Live Oak.
The permit was not on the agenda, but Allison Guy, representative of the international environmental group SumOfUs flew in from Washington D.C. to hand over the petition signatures. The Seven Springs Water Company got the message that the people in this area and around the world do not want them to pump the public’s water from Ginnie Springs and then sell it.
The permit would allow Seven Springs to further draw down the Santa Fe River, which is below its minimum flow already and thus is in recovery. This pumping would delay the restoration of this iconic water treasure in North Florida, and while damaging the river recovery, make Seven Springs and Nestle richer. This at the expense of the river and the public.
A press conference took place outside the district’s headquarters before the 9 o’clock meeting and then a large group headed inside to speak during public comment. Approximately 30 people spoke, all against the renewal of Seven Springs’ water permit, taking about two hours to do so.
Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun has written an informative article about this meeting, which we are including following our photos. Her complete article can be found here in the Gainesville Sun.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Lindsey Dank* of Change.org brought 226,208 signatures opposing Seven Springs permit renewal.
Kate Gallagher* Melrose Karen Mullins*, sang a song OSFR Kristin Rubin*
Danny Arnold, Shirley Noel, from Orlando Lucy Anstey* Laura Dailey*
Ex-President OSFR Pam Smith* Hilda Gilchrist* Amigos Dive Center and champion river cleaner Wayne Kinard
Martha Strawn* Isaac Augspurg*, wise beyond his few years Russ Augspurg*, grandfather of Isaac and one of the founders of OSFR
Super Volunteer Billie Jo Benedict Ex OSFR board member Jane Blais*
Sierra Club Chris Mericle* OSFR board member & event organizer Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson*
Sierra Club Maxine Conner* OSFR President Mike Roth* gears up for battle
Mike Roth* & OSFR treasurer Cindy Noel Sierra Club Maryvonne Devinsky*
Beth Arlyle and Patty Street, OSFR secretary Ichetucknee Alliance Pat Burke
CAPM Cindy North and Carol Burton Bruce Karcher
Board members have not been addressed by a mermaid before, and look befuddled (with the exception of Mr. Jones who is unaware). Michelle Colson* swims amazingly fast and far.
Suwannee RiverKeeper John Quarterman* is a familiar face at the group which decides the fate and well being of the Suwannee and Santa Fe.
These people are out there fighting for your water, your springs and your rivers. Most get not a penny in return, and some drive long distances. We appreciate them all.
Attendees who addressed the board indicated by *
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum*.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Nestle opponents ask water district to deny bottling permit
By Cindy Swirko
Posted December 10, 2019
LIVE OAK — A mermaid and a bear warrior were among the few dozen people who urged the Suwannee River Water Management District Tuesday morning not to approve a permit that will enable Nestle Waters to bottle more than 1.15 million gallons of water a day out of Ginnie Springs.
Speakers presented two separate petitions — one signed by 384,000 people worldwide collected by the group SumOfUs. People
who live on the Santa Fe River or who splash in the springs spoke. A grandfather and his grandson spoke.
And so did professional mermaid Michelle Colson, in a shimmery long skirt and a headband made of shells.
Anyone who has been to Weeki Wachee Springs knows mermaids are real and, in Florida, springs are a favorite haunt. Colson spoke against issuing a permit, saying it will degrade the Ginnie Springs system.
“We are continuing to allow permits to go through without realizing what we are doing to our springs. I cannot and will not sit idly by,” Colson said. “I am professional mermaid by trade and I go to a lot of parties for children. When I go, I talk to them about the springs and share with them the wonders that are here in our backyard. They absolutely, 100 percent scared…”
Seven Springs Water Co., formed by the family that owns the Ginnie Springs Park, wants a renewed permit that will continue to allow it to pump up to 1.152 millions of gallons a day to a nearby Nestle bottling plant.
The permit under which the plant was operating allowed that volume, but neither Nestle nor previous owners have pumped that much. However, Nestle is planning to add more lines that could enable it to bottle more water….
The Santa Fe River system is under a district recovery plan to try to restore its health, which has been impaired in part by a decrease in water.
Nestle Natural Resource Manager George Ring recently told The Sun the company is a good steward of water, adding the business depends on a healthy supply of clean water.
The company said it provides a public service by supplying bottled water.
However, the Guardian newspaper reported last week that a Michigan appeals court ruled against Nestle in a suit involving a city that blocked permitting for a Nestle pumping station. The court ruled the company is not providing an essential public service and is not public water supply.
Opponents have said it’s unfair for the company to profit by bottling water that’s needed by everyone.
A state legislator recently filed a bill that would tax companies that bottle water.
Johns let everyone speak who wanted to. It took about two hours.
Most of the speakers said they live in the region and frequent its many springs and the Santa Fe River. Several said they have seen it degraded over the years through increased algae growth and decreased water.
“Over the span of time I’ve lived on the river I’ve seen the water quality decline. The water quantity varies as we all know but it also declined. It’s double trouble,” Pam Smith said. “You have to draw the line somewhere.”
Teenager Isaac Augspurg, who said he was told to never let school get in the way of an education, has been educating himself on the aquifer, springs and river.
Augspurg — whose grandfather, Russ Augspurg, also spoke — said the springs are worthy of protection.
“My mom grew up on the beautiful Santa Fe and … she’s told us stories of the Santa Fe and springs when she was growing up, and what they looked like,” Isaac Augspurg said. “As I’ve gotten older and become more informed about the world … you realize that the people in charge don’t always do the right thing. You realize that there is not much that is sacred.”
He urged the board, “on behalf of my generation,” not to issue the permit.
Katrina Shadix, director of the bear advocacy group Bear Warriors United, said the group hopes the board denies the permit.
“But if you don’t we will consider it the first shot fired in Florida’s continuing water war. We will fight and we will win,” Shadix said.
They will have help from Colson’s group.
“Mermaids are not going down without a fight on this,” Colson said.