The Amy H Remley Foundation  
   
     
 

Mining

The following article appeared in a recent (June, 2007) issue of the Citrus County Chronicle and is included here by permission of the author Charles Miko. Mr Miko is a retired high school and college physics teacher and a long term resident of Citrus County.

The article provides valuable insight into the relationship between urbanization and the waters of the aquifer. Urbanization is chosen to describe the root source of serious issues. People choose to live in this region and require places to live and the ability to travel to and from their homes. This in turn requires homes, roads and an infrastrcture to be built and maintained. It makes money sense to mine the raw materials for construction close to the place where they will be applied and to have such supplies of limerock available close to the land surface surface makes the choice of site a no brainer. Permits were aquired for the mining operation at a time when the need to conserve the integrity and supply of aquifer waters was less widely appreciated than it is today.

Water for Rock, A Costly Trade

After two major droughts in six years, the people of Florida, in particular on the Nature Coast, ought to be concerned about the quantity, quality, allocation and management of our most precious natural resource, water.

At a recent Water Summit sponsored by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), Executive Director David Moore told participants that Conservation is the quickest, most effective and most inexpensive way to grow water supply. We can do it today; every gallon saved stays in the water pie; and it costs absolutely nothing — no new infrastructure, no regulation, no increased taxes. Everyone in the room agreed.

In the northwest portion of Citrus County, citizens, their elected representatives and regional water managers have an opportunity to put this conservation strategy to work. At present, there is an 8000 acre expanse of land between U.S. 19 and the Gulf of Mexico, an area roughly the size of Inverness and Crystal River combined, zoned for destruction by mining. The aquifer will be opened and laid bare. It doesn't take a hydrologist to understand that when acre after acre of water is exposed to sun and wind immense quantities will be lost to evaporation.

At this latitude, open water evaporates at a rate of 48 inches (4 feet) per year. Each 1000 acres of aquifer exposed will result in a loss of more than 3.5 million gallons per day (mgd). Enough water to cover 11 acres to a depth of one foot — water that is lost every day of every year, forever; traded for a one time supply of rock.

Citrus County's Future Land Use Plan, through its land allocation to surface mining, paves the way for the eventual loss of 28 mgd (million gallons per day); more water than is slated to be produced at a cost of $140 million dollars by the trouble-plagued desalinization plant in Tampa Bay; more water than is required to meet the needs of the entire 2007 population of Citrus County.

When the land has been stripped of everything valuable, including our water, the miners from Mexico (CEMEX) and Switzerland (HOLCIM) will move on. They would have you believe that this loss of water is not important, that this is "only water on its way to the Gulf." However, data compiled by our state agencies show that the height of the fresh water column in the vicinity of the Cemex mine is steadily diminishing. When that column is lowered to the level of the Gulf, salt water will flow into the fresh water aquifer. In fact, measurements taken in late 2005 and 2006 indicate that this may already have begun.

Five hundred acres of aquifer have already been exposed. The Inglis Cemex mine uncovered 20 additional acres last year. Evaporation stands now at 1.75 million gallons per day, a quarter of a million gallons more than the combined water use permits for Crystal River, Inglis, and Yankeetown, and it is growing with each dragline bucketful. Digging continues day and night, and yet no one in government has dared suggest that what they are doing is not in the public interest and must be stopped.

In the face of this avoidable, encroaching disaster, we are expected to view the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as the defender of our environment, to heed the advice of The Southwest Florida Water Management District to conserve, to plant Florida-friendly landscaping and to turn off the tap while we brush our teeth. Really? This is absurd.

Water for rock; it's a costly trade. How far will it be permitted to go before it is stopped?

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