Regarding Nitrate Contaminants in Wells

luncheon 1
Nitrate Pollution Luncheon with Herschel Vinyard in Background


Yesterday, Aug. 7 2015, in Alachua, Dr. Del Bottcher of Soil and Water Engineering Technology, Inc. sponsored a luncheon and gave a presentation on nitrates in dairies, principally the Watson Dairy. There were 19 people in attendance, including ex-DEP head Herschel Vinyard, and six environmentalists, among whom were several OSFR members.  Also in the group were farm and dairy managers and waste management engineers.

Among the topics of discussion were the planned denitrification bioreactor which should be operational by September and the high nitrate readings in some wells.

At this meeting Dr. Robert Knight of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute pointed out his concerns for contamination in certain wells near the Santa Fe River in Alachua and Gilchrist Counties.

OSFR sees as its mission that of dissemination of information relating to the land surrounding the Santa Fe River, and as such, we are reproducing an email sent from the Florida Springs Institute to various health monitoring agencies in Florida, including the DEP, and Health Dept., as well as local county agencies.

Also, in light of the information contained in the FDEP report seen at this link, we also recommend to our readers in Alachua and Gilchrist Counties that they have their wells tested for harmful contaminants.Scroll


Please alert the responsible persons in each of your agencies about a groundwater nitrate drinking water emergency in Gilchrist and Alachua Counties. FDEP has been sampling the Santa Fe Springs Restoration Focus Area for the past two years. As recently reported by Dr. Brian Katz with FDEP, nitrate nitrogen levels are greatly elevated throughout this area compared to historic, pre-development concentrations. In four of the state’s 20 monitoring wells, nitrate concentrations exceed the FDEP safe drinking water standard of 10 mg/L. Nitrate levels in 75% of the wells sampled exceed the springs nitrate standard of 0.35 mg/L.

Two of the monitoring wells are of particular concern to rural residents living downgradient and drawing their drinking water from Floridan aquifer wells. Well #12 in eastern Gilchrist County has nitrate concentrations between 32 and 48 mg/L. Well #7 in western Alachua County has nitrate concentrations measured between 15 and 27 mg/L. Both of these monitoring wells are downgradient from active dairies and upgradient of rural housing developments. These data are more than adequate to declare an immediate water advisory, to require testing of private self-supply wells for nitrate contamination, and to consider enforcement action against the neighboring dairies.

The Florida Springs Institute is concerned about the health effects of elevated nitrate in the aquifer. These extremely high concentrations are only partially diluted by the time they reach the Santa Fe River springs. For example, Gilchrist Blue springs has an average nitrate nitrogen concentration above 2 mg/L which is currently rising. This value is about 4,000% higher than the baseline nitrate concentration in this spring. As a springs scientist I am concerned about the declining ecological health of the Santa Fe River springs. As a private individual with a graduate degree in public health I am also concerned for the residents drinking and bathing in this polluted groundwater.

Please provide a written reply to this email indicating the corrective actions your agency intends to take.


Robert L. Knight, Ph.D.

DirectorHoward T. Odum Florida Springs Institute”
5302 NW 156 Avenue
Gainesville, Florida 32653
386-462-1003 office


  1. There are 4 wells showing levels above 10 ppm nitrate (drinking water standard) anything higher has been known to cause blue baby syndrome and human health problems. Even at 10 ppm, I would not want to drink that. The Santa Fe River itself has been listed as an “impaired waterway” by the DEP; it’s health requires .35 ppm nitrate, but often is 2 to 3 times higher in the river and the springs (such as Blue and Ginnie) register even higher in the 1.5 – 2.5 ppm. Please read the DEP report that employee Brian Katz made for the Santa Fe Springs Working Group last week. The report is fairly easy to understand and those living around the 4 wells, #12, #7, #11, #14 take heed of Dr. Bob Knight’s warnings, posted on OSFR website.

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