There is no way a reasonably intelligent person could make an objective judgement on this issue and say that this permit is in the “public interest.” Over 19,000 letters protesting the permit has been received by the Suwannee River Water Management District, even though at this time they may not be easily accessed by the public. The public has spoken 19 thousand times, saying that Nestle and Seven Springs have no right to this water.
The SRWMD board members have the obligation to make a subjective judgement on this permit which will protect our river.
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Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
Water bottling costs outweigh any benefits
The Gainesville Sun Editorial Board
USA TODAY NETWORK Sun. Feb. 7, 2021
A recent ruling would allow nearly a million gallons of groundwater to be pumped each day for Nestle’s water-bottling operation near High Springs, but that shouldn’t be the final word on the matter.
The Suwannee River Water Management District still has an opportunity to reject the water-withdrawal permit and protect the Santa Fe River and its springs from further harm.
Last month, an administrative law judge ruled that Seven Springs Water Co. met legal requirements to pump up to 984,000 gallons a day from the aquifer at Ginnie Springs for Nestle’s bottling plant. Judge G.W. Chisenhal’s recommended order now goes back to the district’s governing board to consider at a Feb. 23 special meeting . The district previously determined that the Santa Fe and its springs have suffered harm due to excessive groundwater pumping, so one might assume the judge’s ruling revolved around that issue. Instead, the case centered on technical issues such as whether Seven Springs provided enough information on Nestle’s ability to process the water.
The judge ruled the plant would be able to process the requested amount, and thus ‘the district now has reasonable assurances that all of the water withdrawn by Seven Springs will be utilized for a beneficial use, i.e., bottled water for personal consumption.’
But ‘beneficial use’ is in the eye of the beholder. Bottling the water is certainly beneficial to Nestle, the world’s largest food company, and Seven Springs, which only pays a $115 one-time permit fee to the state and gets paid by Nestle for the water.
The water-bottling plant’s employees also benefit, but is it worth the cost to the springs that attract so many people to the High Springs area? Is it worth the cost to an aquifer already overburdened with pumping for agriculture and other uses? Is it worth the cost to the environment caused by putting all that water in plastic bottles?
Recently, the Columbia County Commission decided against proceeding with the agreements needed for a water-bottling plant in Lake City. Niagara, a California-based bottler, had sought to pump nearly 2.9 million gallons from the aquifer.
The water management district and its board need to have the nerve to similarly stand up to Nestle. The law is on their side: The ‘public interest’ is supposed to be protected when water permits are issued under state law, as Michael Roth of the water-advocacy group Our Santa Fe River points out in a guest column . The public’s interest is in protecting the aquifer, springs and river, not boosting the profits of a corporation. The water management district itself determined in 2014 that the Santa Fe was beyond the point of significant harm due to excessive pumping reducing the flow from the springs feeding it.
Last month’s ruling doesn’t have to be the last word on the permit. The district and its board have plenty of reason to reject the permit beyond the technical issues cited by the judge.