The Gainesville Sun has published an editorial Nov. 25 about the inexplicable actions of the DEP. Even more strange is the fact that the state has already spent millions on restoring this spring, and then continues to allow people like Judge E. Gary Early and others contribute to its demise.
Meanwhile, money continues to be spent and the spring continues to dwindle away and die. Read the original article here.
Editorial: Science smokescreen
Alan Youngblood/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 23, 2015 at 10:27 a.m.
When state environmental officials undertook what they promised was a serious effort to save and restore Florida springs several years ago, they said they would develop a strategy based on science. Never mind that a veritable library of studies and reports existed identifying the problem and its causes, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection declared it all was inconclusive and it would compile its own scientific data.
The science would be used to develop a Basin Management Action Plan, or BMAP, a game plan for curbing pollution and falling water tables levels that have caused the steady deterioration of Florida’s waterways.
Silver Springs, because of its size and iconic status, was one of the first springs to undergo the BMAP process. The final product was officially accepted by DEP Secretary Jon Steverson last month.
Problem is, after two years of developing the Silver Springs BMAP, it falls woefully short of what is needed. The DEP says nitrate levels need to be reduced by 79 percent, to .35 milligrams per liter. Unfortunately, both the advocacy ground the Silver Springs Alliance and DEP agree that the BMAP, as it is written, will not come close to that goal.
In fact, the Alliance’s president, Bob Knight, also director of the Gainesville-based Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute — who has studied Silver Springs for four decades — says the DEP plan will only reduce nitrates 6 percent.
As a result, the Alliance, which had been participating in the writing the BMAP, asked that it be removed as a “stakeholder” in the process, with Knight declaring the BMAP “worthless.”
What is baffling is DEP knows — and concedes — the BMAP falls way, way short of what is needed to restore Silver Springs. It says it needs more science.
Consider that an analysis of the sources of nitrate flowing into Silver Springs, conducted by DEP’s own scientists, found that 39 percent came from septic tanks, 17 percent from cattle farms and 11 percent from agricultural fertilizer. Solid evidence by its own experts.
Yet, DEP says it needs to know exactly which septic tanks, which cattle farms and which agricultural operations. So the St. Johns River Water Management District is conducting a three-year study (yes, three more years) of underground water flows to determine where the nitrates originate and travel once in the aquifer.
Here’s a clue: Silver Springs … and the region’s drinking water supply.
Knight and the Silver Springs Alliance have proposed some pretty aggressive clean-up proposals, including hooking up most septic tank household in the springshed to water systems and reducing nitrogen loads by 50 percent in 10 years. Those might be overly ambitious, but those sorts of steps are inevitable if the springs are going to be saved.
As for DEP, its head of the BMAP process defended the agency’s inadequate and insulting springs strategy, calling it “a beginning” and “a start of doing more things.”
A beginning? Our springs have been in decline for more than a generation and there are volumes of science verifying the causes and effects of that decline. Hiding behind the need for more science — again — is a ridiculous smokescreen by an administration that is adverse to taking serious, meaningful steps to clean up Florida’s environment because it will come with a price for all of us. But then, we are talking about our dwindling and deteriorating water supply.
What is confounding is DEP officials also know the cost of not saving our springs, yet they still stall — and do so inexplicably in the name of science