Category Archives: Aquifer

The Floridan Aquifer is our main drinking water source under our entire WWALS watershed, east to south Carolina, west through Alabama to Mississippi, and under all of Florida.

The regulatory trap at SRWMD: 30 speakers, yet unanimous Nestle permit 2021-02-23

A textbook case: “We present our three-minute, passionate oration about the risk to community health, but in the end, nothing we say must be taken into account by the state in issuing the permit.&rdqup; Common Sense: Community Rights Organizing, by CELDF; thanks to Karma Norjin Lhamo for the reminder.

[Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board]
Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board

About 30 speakers gave impassioned orations for denial, after which the Suwannee River Water Management District Board unanimously approved the Nestlé permit as fast as the roll could be called.

[SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin]
SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin. Notice nobody on the SRWMD Board representing the Santa Fe River Basin. Water taxation without representation.

As one prominent local activist said afterwards, “Two years out of my life I’ll never get back! I don’t know if I’ll ever come back here.”

Sure, voting in a governor who would appoint better WMD board members would help, and into the legislature, too. New legislators would help pass what is really needed: a Bill of Rights for Nature.

That is a way out of the Regulatory Fallacy Box. Continue reading

Help SRWMD reject Nestle permit 2021-02-23

You can help the Suwannee River Water Management District Board uphold the public interest and reject Nestlé’s water withdrawal permit application.

[Agenda, Board, No Permit]
Agenda, Board, No Permit

Even SRWMD’s legal counsel only recommends approving the Seven Springs permit “under protest.” The DOAH judge’s Order is actually only a RECOMMENDATION, and the District filed eighteen pages of exceptions to that Order. The judge disallowed most of those exceptions, but SRWMD is still holding open the possibility of appeal with that “under protest”.

The Judge’s Order dances around the basic question: is putting water in plastic bottles after taking it from the Floridan Aquifer next to a depleted river and springs, all for profit of a Swiss company, in the public interest? Florida law and the judge attempt to narrow what can be considered down what can be considered for the public interest to what is in Florida rules or a handbook, even though none of those adequately address the real issues. The plain fact is that a contract to sell water does not determine any public interst in cleaning up plastic bottles from our springs and rivers, nor does it determine any public interest in lower springs and rivers, with bad effects on wildlife, public use of those waters, and eventually on drinking water.

The SRWMD board can deny this permit because it is not in the public interest. You can help them do so.

It almost looks like the SRWMD counsel is asking people to come protest, since he repeatedly mentions that Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) filed legal motions and both Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Michael Roth spoke in the legal hearing. Disclosure: WWALS has provided some financial support for OSFR’s legal actions in this matter.

If you’re going to attend this Special Meeting in person, get there early to get a spot. To attend online, be sure to sign up for both the webinar and cal in for audio. If you want to comment, you must also sign up for that separately. Don’t wait for the second day: if that happens at all, there will be no public comment.

So come early on the first day, in person or online, Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

The entire SRWMD Special Meeting Board packet is on the WWALS website: https://www.wwals.net/pictures/2021-02-23–srwmd-nestle-special-meeting-packet/

Here is the agenda, with how to attend online: Continue reading

Back to Live Oak and online: SRWMD Nestle Special Meeting 2021-02-23

The Suwannee River Water Management District has moved its Special Meeting, to decide the Nestlé permit for Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, back to Live Oak, with online participation, February 23, 2021, plus possible continuation the next day.

[No Nestle permit, 2021-02-23 or any other date]
No Nestle permit, 2021-02-23 or any other date

That didn’t take long, due to complaints by OSFR, Ichetucknee Alliance, and others. Meeting only in-person during a pandemic, and far from both the usual meeting site and the site of the problem, was never a good idea. The tradition SRWMD has established with their regular board meetings, such as the one this morning, of meeting at their headquarters with online participation, is a much better idea.

An even better idea: deny the permit.

At the bottom of the SRWMD press release:

The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people.

There won’t be enough water for people or nature unless SRWMD stops issuing permits for frivolous uses such as plastic bottles for a Swiss company. The “needs of the public” include the public interest, which includes not having to pick up plastic bottles from springs and rivers, having enough water in the springs and rivers and the Floridan Aquifer, and not subsidizing a foreign company at the expense of our waters. Besides, people are part of nature, last time I looked, and pretending they are not is how you damage both.


[No to Nestle!]
No to Nestle! 2019-12-10

Remember back in December 2019, when 32 people spoke against the same Nestlé permit, and delivered 384,000 petition signatures?

It’s not a good idea to crowd together people during a pandemic, but you can still send a postcard to SRWMD:

SRWMD Board Members
9225 CR 49
Live Oak, FL 32060

NO Nestlé PERMIT

[Landscape Postcard]
Landscape Postcard
PDF

Or contact SRWMD by other means: NO Nestlé PERMIT.

LOCATION UPDATED FOR DISTRICT SPECIAL MEETING

Continue reading

Public interest should be considered with water-bottling permit –Mike Roth, Gainesville Sun 2021-02-01

WWALS member and OSFR president Mike Roth wrote an op-ed in the Gainesville Sun, February 1, 2021, Public interest should be considered with water-bottling permit,

Despite the impression given by a recent ruling on Nestle’s water-bottling operation near High Springs, the public’s right to clean and plentiful water has been protected by the Legislature.

Mike Roth addressing SRWMD
Photo: John S. Quarterman, of Mike Roth addressing the SRWMD Board.

Previous legislative bodies (no, not the current one) were interested in protecting the public. Section 373 of the Florida Statutes, the section that governs water permitting, makes 46 references to “public interest.”

What they forgot to do, unfortunately, is define “public interest.” Anywhere.

Judge G.W. Chisenhall, the administrative judge ruling on the water-bottling permit, recently decided that Seven Springs Water Co. met requirements to pump water from the Ginnie Springs aquifer for Nestle. His decision was based on a part of the administrative code (Rule 40B-2.301) that cites “public interest” not once, but twice.

So why did he not consider the almost 19,000 comments from the public in opposition to this permit? Maybe it is because the issue was specifically banned from discussion in the case, primarily because it was not raised by the Suwannee River Water Management District in the first place. It would be interesting to see the work papers in the district’s files where the staff even considered the “public interest.”

For every water permit that district staff approve, they assert that the request is in the public interest. How can they make this assertion when the term isn’t even defined in the law?

Judge Chisenhall also alludes to Rule 40B-2.301 when he asserts that “all of the water withdrawn by Seven Springs will be utilized for a beneficial use, i.e., bottled water for personal consumption.”

Beneficial to whom? Nestle? It is certainly not beneficial to the health of the Ginnie Springs complex springshed — which, by the way, might be considered to be in the “public interest.”

Our Santa Fe River tried to get into the skirmish and have our very experienced and diligent scientists demonstrate that the withdrawals would be harmful to the springshed and the Santa Fe River. But that issue, too, was banned from discussion because it was not raised by the Suwannee River Water Management District in the first place.

Even the Seven Springs attorneys happily pointed out that “none of the grounds for denial at issue in this proceeding include any environment or resource protection criteria.” Well, why the heck not?

And while we’re speaking of “beneficial use,” does the Suwannee River Water Management District recognize that the Santa Fe River has been running below Minimum Flows and Levels since MFLs were established? With water beneficial to everyone, part of their job is triage.

Seven Springs asserts that its withdrawal “represents between 0.6% and 0.9% of the combined Ginnie Springs flow rate” as compared to permitted agricultural water withdrawals in 2018, which represent “between 15% and 22% of the approximated spring flow.” But was there any consideration of the relative importance of grain and meat compared to putting water in polluting plastic bottles?

“Ownership and control” was yet another disallowed issue, even though it is a major underlying concept of Section 373 of the Florida Statutes and the related Rule 40B-2.301. Why? Because the Suwannee River Water Management District never brought it up.

Seven Springs does not own the wells, the pipeline from the wells to the bottling plant, or any part of the bottling plant or the land that it is on. It does indeed have an “extraction agreement” with the owner of the wells that the land is on, the matriarch of the family that owns Ginnie Springs Outdoors.

Presumably, then, you or I could dig a well in our backyard, pull out a million gallons a day and sell it to a third party. It only took Suwannee River Water Management District Board member Donald Quincy a few minutes when this permit first came before the board last August to question this, going so far as to cause the board to table the permit to get the ownership and control matter settled.

But Judge Chisenhall wasn’t hearing any part of it: Continue reading

No Nestle Permit, SRWMD

Update 2021-02-09: Back to Live Oak and online: SRWMD Nestle Special Meeting 2021-02-23.

Update 2021-02-04: Special SRWMD Board Meeting February 23, 2021, in Fanning Springs.

You can address your own postcard to SRWMD:

SRWMD Board Members
9225 CR 49
LIVE OAK, FL 32060

NO Nestlé PERMIT

Just “NO PERMIT” is enough, but No permit for Seven Springs or Nestlé would be better. You don’t even need to know who the Board Members of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) are.

[NO PERMIT postcard to SRWMD]
NO PERMIT postcard to SRWMD
PDF

The lead organization on these postcards is Our Santa Fe River (OSFR). If you’re in High Springs this afternoon, you can get a physical postcard from OSFR board member and WWALS member Kristin Rubin at the High Springs Farmer’s Market, 23517 185th Rd., High Springs, FL, from 3 to 6 PM. Tomorrow, January 30th, OSFR will have cards at 441 Alachua Farmer’s Market, 5920 NW 13th St., Gainesville, FL, from 9 to 12 AM.

But you can use any old postcard. Just address it, put No Permit on it, stamp and mail it.

If you haven’t been following this story, Continue reading

Contaminated Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Suwannee Rivers 2021-01-04; cleaner 2021-01-09

Update 2021-01-14: see clarifications and updates in Withlacoochee advisory lifted; more FDEP DNA marker and chemical tracer data 2021-01-12.

The Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Suwannee Rivers were contaminated with E. coli Monday, January 4, 2021, all the way from US 41 at North Valdosta Road to US 90 below the Withlacoochee River Confluence, and probably farther downstream, according to Valdosta, Madison Health, and FDEP data for that day. We also have preliminary DNA marker results from FDEP.

The culprit? Ruminants. The only ruminants numerous enough to cause the sky-high DNA marker results for the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers? Cattle.

This is a good example of how when testing happens upstream and down, we can all tell what is going on. Florida needs to fund frequent, regular, closely-spaced water quality testing from the state line to the Gulf. Continue reading

Tonight Columbia BOCC can stop Niagara from bottling water 2020-01-07

Tonight at 5:30 PM the Columbia BOCC will vote on a water bottling operation by Niagara Bottling that has already been rejected by the Columbia County, Florida, Economic Advisory Board. The Board of County Commissioners makes the actual decision.

Especially if you live in Columbia County, please attend or send them email or call them. We don’t need more plastic bottles to clean up and we don’t need more drawdown of the aquifer and rivers. See the letter below by Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson for much more on what and why.

Besides, the demands Niagara makes sound like private prison company demands to have a certain number of prisoners or else penalties. For example:

Phase 1 water obligations of 650,000 gallons per day by Lake City to provide water is only relieved after Columbia County receives a non-appealable water use permit authorization sufficient to meet company’s water requirements at build out of 2,860,00 gallons per day of potable water and Columbia County has all water infrastructure completed and can independently serve the company.

The purpose of a county government is not to serve a private company from somewhere else.

See also background news stories by Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer:

The word “potential” is important: just because a company promises jobs doesn’t mean they would actually appear. And if water bottling companies and phosphate mines and agriculture keep draining the aquifer, what jobs will be left?

Letter by Merrilee Malwitz-Jipson to Columbia BOCC


November 6, 2021

Good Evening Gentlemen,

I am a resident of Columbia County. I identify with and volunteer for a citizen based organization named Our Santa Fe River which opposes bottled water businesses in our region in order to protect our freshwater springs, rivers and public water supplies found in wells and municipality service systems.

Tomorrow night, Columbia County (FL) Board of County Commission meeting will be discussing and possibly voting on the Belle Project (Niagara water bottling plant proposal).

Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 5:30 P.M.
School Board Administrative Complex
372 West Duval Street

Regular scheduled meeting Agenda: Continue reading

Okefenokee news in the Georgia runoff elections 2020-12-29

The mine and the Swamp and the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs are in the news, in the Albany Herald, the Saporta Report, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, plus my op-ed last week in the Valdosta Daily Times.

You can also contact the governor, the runoff candidates, and other elected officials:
https://wwals.net/?p=54109#howtocomment

For why, see the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen.

[Mine, Swamp, River, Bird]
Mine, Swamp, River, Bird

So far, the only statement we’ve seen from any Georgia runoff candidate is in the AJC article:

Jenni Sweat, a spokeswoman for Perdue, said the office received regular updates on the Twin Pines project as they do with many other Corps projects. “This presents an economic development opportunity in rural Southeast Georgia that local officials support, and our office has monitored its status through the federal and state regulatory process,” said Sweat in a statement.

Let’s also hear from the other U.S. Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff, Kelly Loeffler, and Raphael Warnock. And let’s hear from candidates for Public Service Commission, Daniel Blackman, and Lauren Bubba McDonald. If nothing else, the miners will probably want more electric power for their mine site, so that makes it a PSC issue, too.

Albany Herald

Staff reports, Albany Herald, 29 December 2020, Environmental groups ask governor to stop mine near Okefenokee,

HAHIRA — Environmental groups, including the Suwannee Riverkeeper and the WWALS Watershed Coalition, have sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp asking him to stop the proposed titanium strip mine from being allowed within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia and north Florida.

The letter, which lays out evidence to support the groups’ request, states: Continue reading

Protecting our waters from a strip mine –Suwannee Riverkeeper in Valdosta Daily Times 2020-12-23

“Dear runoff candidates: What will you do to stop this proposed strip mine far too near the Okefenokee Swamp?”

You can also ask that question of those candidates and of the Georgia governor and other elected officials:
https://wwals.net/?p=54109#howtocomment

[Dateline, Op-ed]
Dateline, Op-ed

The op-ed in the Valdosta Daily Times of December 23, 2020, was slightly shortened. Below is what I sent, including links to references.

A company from Alabama, Twin Pines Minerals LLC, proposes to strip-mine for titanium dioxide for paint within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp. Twin Pines is under a Florida Consent Order for titanium mines in north Florida. Its president was a proponent of the Franklin County, Georgia, biomass plant that caused a massive fish kill. The state had to pass a law to stop it from burning railroad ties. https://wwals.net/?p=53931

The miners have promised jobs, from 150 to 300, with no specifics. And at what cost?

A sign at I-75 Exit 16 for Valdosta says: “Okefenokee Swamp… 62 Miles.” The Swamp is an internationally-known treasure that Continue reading

Plastic free 2020-12-08

Want to stop Nestlé from sucking up Floridan Aquifer water and selling it in plastic bottles? Tired of picking up plastic from rivers and springs, and futile recycling? Stop disposable plastic at the source by stopping single-use plastic.

[Plastic Free: WWALS, Suwannee Riverkeeper]
Plastic Free: WWALS, Suwannee Riverkeeper

WWALS and Suwannee Riverkeeper are among the more than 550 signatories on this Presidential Plastics Action Plan. You’ll recognize many Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina Waterkeepers, as well as Waterkeeper Alliance, plus Our Santa Fe River.

For the Plan, see the online summary or the PDF. The first action alone could have a massive effect: stop the federal government from buying single-use plastic.

Individuals can sign a petition. Please help.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!