Florida Springs Council Says State’s Plan To Fix Silver Springs Is Way Off

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(File photo/WUFT News)
(File photo/WUFT News)

The Florida Springs Council submitted a letter Tuesday to the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the Silver Springs Alliance.

The group wants the federal government to know its outrage with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

According to the Alliance, the state finalized a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) for Silver Springs that will be insufficient in reducing the springs’ nitrate levels to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Nitrates are a form of nitrogen, a fertilizer that is a pollutant in waterbodies.

Among other concerns, the letter states that the BMAP, adopted in October by the DEP, does not meet the requirements in Sections 303 and 319 of the Clean Water Act.

The Silver Springs Alliance has provided input on the Silver Springs BMAP since 2013, expressing concerns about lack of funding and proper action being taken to solve water quality issues. The Alliance said the FDEP ignored these concerns when drafting the BMAP.

For its part, the state welcomes the EPA’s involvement and stands by its plan.

“The department encourages EPA to respond. We are confident they will support Florida’s restoration approach on Silver Springs,” DEP spokeswoman Jess Boyd wrote in an email. “This restoration plan is an important part of restoring Silver Springs and we are glad to have it adopted.”

Alliance President Robert Knight said several stakeholders were involved in the process of developing the BMAP including agricultural interests, local governments (including Marion and Alachua Counties) and state organizations.

He said the Silver Springs Alliance was the only organization involved in the plan that represents the public interest.

The Alliance asked the FDEP to remove it as a stakeholder on the BMAP after its concerns were ignored, but the FDEP did not remove them from the plan.

Pollution levels have more than doubled since the 1970s and the state isn’t doing its part to uphold the water quality standard, Knight said.

“The state determined in 2009 and then in 2012 that it would take a reduction of nitrogen levels of 79 percent to meet the water quality levels for springs,” he said.

The reduction in nitrogen levels as outlined in the BMAP would be much lower than that, Knight said.

“It only deals with a 6 percent reduction. Of that 6 percent, there’s only committed funding to accomplish half that 6 percent,” he said.

One-third of the pollution comes from septic tanks, while urban and livestock fertilizer provide the rest of the load, Knight said.

“The plan does not distribute the responsibility for cleaning up that nitrogen pollution to all the parties that are responsible for it,” he said.

The goal of Florida Springs Council’s letter to the Environmental Protection Agency is to get them to enforce the state’s laws.

“You can see the plan is very inadequate just based on the actual numbers to accomplish water quality restoration in Silver Springs. And that’s why the Springs Institute and Silver Springs Alliance opposed that,” he said.

Silver Springs Alliance said it expects a response from the EPA within two weeks.

About Bryan J. Faux

Bryan is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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