To the editor:
On May 29, 2009 two cities, Williston and Dunnellon, united in a mutual partnership to protect one of Florida’s special natural resources, Rainbow Springs. It was stated that two of the major threats to the springs are water quantity and quality. Williston and East Levy County, which lie in the Rainbow River Springshed, provide a necessary water supply function (surface and ground water recharge) to areas south of the county, i.e. Rainbow Springs in Dunnellon.
According to the Rainbow Springs pamphlet published by the Florida DEP, “Land use activities in the Rainbow Springs Basin impact both quantity and quality of water in Rainbow Springs and in the rainbow river. A spring is only as healthy as the quality of the groundwater in its recharge basin (also known as its springshed). Activities within the springshed can have adverse impacts upon the quality and quantity of groundwater and the spring run ecosystem. Protection of spring water must occur before the water reaches the spring.”
East Levy County is a flat area of high permeability and elevated water recharge situated in the Rainbow River springshed. Do you think a major limerock excavation north of Rainbow Springs (remember water flows North to South with gravity) in East Levy County would be a land use that would protect the quality and the quantity of groundwater flowing to rainbow springs?
CERTAINLY NOT! Limerock mining and the industrial activities that accompany it negatively impact BOTH the quantity and the quality of the water. Here are a few reasons why: blasting (accompanied by a noise that cannot be mitigated) takes place about 80 feet beneath the potentiometric surface (a total of 120 feet below ground level when you add the 40 foot NAVD) creating a very low point in the earth. Groundwater then runs towards it due to forces of gravity. When this occurs the groundwater now becomes surface water. More water is lost through evaporation over the entire area of the pit, about 68 acres in this case. These are permanent and irreversible long-term water losses. Short-term water loss results from the millions of gallons per month (about100,000 to 200,000 gallons per day) the miners pump out in an attempt to control the dust which, by the way, contains cancer causing crystalline silica (stated in Teichert aggregates material safety data sheet in California).
As to the quality of the water, pollutants from mining activity enter directly into the aquifer bypassing the natural filtering system. Limerock dredging permanently removes the intricate limerock matrix of the aquifer that contains groundwater, destroying it forever. Some of these pollutants are nitrate from the explosives used, naturally occurring arsenic released from the dissolution of limerock in the pit, benzene from diesel fuels used to run equipment in and around the pit, just to name a few possible pollutants. Also, pit turbidity in a high permeability (like East Levy County) karst aquifer can travel quite a distance threatening nearby wells (Aspects Consultants, Washington). Certainly a major limerock excavation in the Rainbow River Springshed would have a negative impact on the Rainbow River and springs.
According to Karen G. Porter, in her book, The Everglades, Florida Bay, and Coral Reefs of the Florida Keys, the USEPA’s Scientific Advisory Board (1999) says “hydrologic alteration was assigned the highest ecological rank of 33 major environmental stressors in the U.S.(fig26.8 pg 736) She also says that, “Hydrologic alterations that are anthropogenic [caused or produced by humans] in origin, however, can result in changes that are orders of magnitude greater than those resulting from climate change, in a relatively instantaneous period of time compared to that of global climate change.” ( pg. 735) In other words, when humans contaminate the water, the effects are felt immediately and to a much greater degree than other enviromental stresses.
I live in special place. I care about protecting it, our natural resources, and our fresh clean water for us and for future generations. Show that you care! Support the planning commission’s decision to deny the special exception permit for the mine by attending the county commissioners meeting, date and time to be announced to take place at the Levy County Courthouse. One thing history has taught us is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (Ben Franklin).
Dr. Traudi Miller-Moss, O.D, Bachelor of Science, Biology and Chemistry