Are tough regulations needed to save Florida's springs?

02/13/14 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: springs, pollution, EarthJustice, Florida Legislature


Devil Spring in north Florida's Ginnie Springs.

photo by Seán Kinane (Nov 2012).

Florida’s springs are in trouble. Whether it’s pollution causing algae outbreaks, or reduced flow threatening to dry up springs that have flown for decades or centuries, nearly everyone agrees something needs to be done. But there’s disagreement over what that would be.

Recently a coalition of powerful state business groups wrote a letter criticizing efforts by some Florida legislators to help reduce pollution near springs. And that has environmentalists, like David Guest, head of the Florida office of EarthJustice, upset.

"Florida springs are the canary in the coal mines for the health and safety of our waters. We have about a thousand springs, more springs than any place in the whole world. They were a natural wonder, they brought people from around the country and foreign countries to see and to enjoy. They have been the most beautiful place that many Floridians ever went. That's true of me, I used to go to Wakulla Spring near Tallahassee. To have these turn into green slime it's not just heartbreaking, it's not just a mistake, and it's not just morally wrong, it's heartbreaking."

There's a group of Florida Senators who are trying to change that by proposing legislation to save the springs. Tell us what they propose.

"The essence of what their proposal is in the Springs legislation is to tax agriculture in a very small way and have a process so that the most important springs would be protected from the contamination from antique septic tanks. It would require septic tanks that are impairing springs to be replaced with modern sewage treatment systems."

And there's a group of business leaders in the state that are challenging this proposal. They wrote a letter to the senators they're saying, this is one line, 'Florida has the regulatory tools it needs to meet the kinds of water supply quality challenges this legislation seeks to address. Does Florida have that?

"Obviously not. If the regulatory system that these big industry and farming groups really worked the springs wouldn't be turning into toxic slime. Of course it's not, that's ludicrous. That is simply vested interests that represent developers and big agricultural concerns. They're simply trying to get off the hook for taking personal responsibility for the pollution they're causing. That's all this is."

What can people do then if they do appreciate the springs and they want to help. What is something that people can do?

"There's two things. One is to contact their legislators and tell them they want them to sign the Clean Water pledge. And another thing they could do is when there are rallies to support springs legislation around the state people should go. We need to stand up for public health. We need to stand up for springs. And we need to tell the legislature that they have a duty to do that and we expect them to follow it."

On Tuesday environmental activists are gathering in Tallahassee to rally for clean water.

comments powered by Disqus


This article is not really clear about proposals, regarding solving the pollution problems. Clarity is needed.

I believe there was enough clarity about the proposals in as much as you can get in two minutes. David Guest called for older or non-functioning septic tanks to be hooked up to a sanitary sewer system. That'd be a great start, if it ever gets done!

The "Clean Water Pledge" referred to here is NOT a pledge, but a declaration: The Floridian's Clean Water Declaration. That wording makes a difference to some people. For more info, see