FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Apr. 23, 2014
DEP HOSTS MEETING TO DEVELOP SILVER SPRINGS RESTORATION PLAN
~Department reviews potential programs and projects to improve Silver Springs water quality ~
OCALA - Today the Florida Department of Environmental Protection engaged local governments, scientists, environmentalists, agricultural producers and other stakeholders in a work session to develop a restoration plan for the Silver Springs Group and Silver River. Silver Springs is among the largest and best known of Florida’s springs. It is home to Silver Springs State Park and is the source of the Silver River.
“Silver Springs is one of Florida’s most iconic spring systems,” said Tom Frick, director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Excessive nutrients are polluting this valuable economic and recreational resource. The department is dedicated to working with stakeholders to form a practical and effective restoration plan.”
Silver Springs suffers from excessive nitrate pollution, consistently reporting nitrate concentrations well above Florida’s healthy springs water quality criterion. The department has identified the maximum amount of pollutants that may be present for a waterbody to be considered healthy; this is referred to as the Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. The restoration plan will identify water quality projects aimed at achieving the TMDL. Reaching this target for Silver Springs will require a 79 percent reduction in nitrate pollutants. Achieving the restoration goal in the Silver Springs system will help reduce the growth of algae, enhance water clarity and improve native aquatic vegetation.
Today’s meeting focused on reviewing a nitrogen pollutant source inventory, groundwater nitrogen data and water quality restoration projects. The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) also provided an update on their Springs Initiative including a project funding update.
Funding has already been directed toward improved wastewater treatment near Silver Springs. The department, SJRWMD and Marion County are collaborating on a $1 million investment to eliminate a wastewater discharge that currently exists from the Silver Springs Regional-Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is within 1.5 miles of the main vent of Silver Springs, the opening where the groundwater discharges to the suface. The project will redirect the wastewater to the Silver Springs Shores Wastewater Treatment Plant, 10 miles from the vent. The department will invest another $400,000 to take Silver River State Park off septic tanks and connect it to central sewer.
In the past three years, twice as much funding has been dedicated exclusively to springs protection as in any other three-year period in Florida history. Governor Rick Scott recently proposed $55 million for restoring and protecting Florida’s springs in the 2014-2015 “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.”