On November 20, 2013, CEJ director Patricia Siemen and CEJ staff attorney Rob Williams responded to a letter from Deputy Secretary Drew Bartlett of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection concerning the ongoing degradation of the Wekiva River and its associated springs.

Their response challenged assertions in Bartlett’s letter dated November 8, 2013, claiming that the minimum flow levels (MFLs) for the Wekiva River and its springs were being met, with the exception of Palm Spring; that water restrictions were no longer necessary; and that significant reductions in annual nutrient loading would be achieved under the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP).

Williams and Siemen’s letter points out that according to the St. Johns River Water Management District’s own data,  the springs and the Wekiva River have been and remain under the minimum levels required to avoid significant harm to the Wekiva Basin ecosystem, and the failure of the Department to implement water restrictions when called for by the scientific data.

Williams and Siemen also challenged the methodology and effectiveness of the BMAP, which reduces Total Nitrogen loading by only 2% when an overall reduction of 80% total nutrient loading is what is necessary to achieve pollution reduction goals.

From the text of the letter:

Both of these processes [minimum flow levels and pollution reduction goals] and the accompanying charade of public participation create the illusion of environmental protection and compliance with the law. However, Nature is not so easily fooled. The protection of groundwater recharge to Wekiwa Springs, Rock Springs, and the many other springs that feed the Wekiva River is crucial to the long-term health of the Wekiva Basin Ecosystem.  As the Wekiva Basin Area Task Force noted a decade ago, “simply put, if the necessary quantity and quality of recharge of groundwater to the aquifer does not occur, then the vegetative and wildlife resources of the Wekiva River Basin will not be sustained.” The “inconvenient truth” is that the River is not receiving the necessary quantity or quality of groundwater needed to sustain the Wekiva Basin Ecosystem.

We need a real plan designed to attain the target reduction of nitrate pollution to 0.35 mg/L within five years as the current law provides. We also need a recovery plan for the springs and the Wekiva River which will restore all the flow which has been lost as soon as is practicable, as required by Section 373.0421(2), Florida Statutes.

Read the full letter to Bartlett here.

Sulphur Spring (photo by Jane Goddard)

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2 Responses to Wekiva River and Springs: Not Enough Clean Water to Sustain the Ecosystem

  1. Karma Norjin Lhamo says:

    Thank you, Sister Pat Siemen and Rob Williams, for your excellent letter. It almost seems as if the State of Florida is willing our springs and rivers to die, because when they are gone, there will be no more outcry to protect them. What our state’s leaders fail to realize is that when they endanger our springs, they also endanger the aquifer beneath our feet that supplies our drinking water! And when our aquifer is polluted with nitrates and saltwater, then they will demand the construction of large alternative water supply projects that the taxpayers must fund and from which the current administration’s political supporters may likely profit. Going into 2014, people need to remember that it is the governor who appoints the boards of the water management districts as well as the head of the Department of Environmental Protection. Yes, I am saying that Florida’s water problems are political problems and that we need new leadership.

  2. Robert says:

    The TMDL process has been broken since before it started. Having attended and commentd as the concept and methodology was being Developd, the flaw became clear immediatly. To sum up the situation, a direct question was asked and was answered, long before the process was adopted into law. The question was, “Will the TMDL process reverse the damage to the Aquifer so that some day the water quality and quantity can recover?” This was in a year when it may just have been possible to turn the state around. The answer was an unabashed “No, the goal of the program was to determine just how far we can further degrade the aquifer before it reaches complete collapse, then to regulte the system to keep if just above the point of collapse.” I know, be cause I asked the question repeatedly. I found it funny that as the public documents continued to be produced, and the process moved toward rulemaking, I never once saw that fact in all the flowery propaganda. The bottom line is that TMDL is not to ‘protect’ anything. It is to quantify the destruction of Florida.

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