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Controversial Wastewater Project In Wakulla Gets Public Hearing

wakulla county aquifer recharge project.jpg
Wakulla County Government
A rendering of the proposed wastewater discharge project in Wakulla County.

Wakulla County leaders will hear input from residents Tuesday on a plan to filter treated wastewater through a local aquifer. The proposal has raised concerns from local environmentalists.

The county plans to turn a 106-acre piece of recently-purchased property into a park and wetlands site, where treated wastewater would also flow into a nearby aquifer.

Opponents of the plan worry elevated levels of nitrogen in the treated wastewater could harm natural habitats. Jack Rudloe, who founded the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, calls the proposed project "short-sighted."

“It’s going to be a colossal fight to keep our wonderful county from screwing up the springs and the bay because it’s going to go out into spring creek out into the Gulf of Mexico and come right back on top of our beleaguered oysters and the rest of our seafood.”

The treated wastewater would filter through the aquifer and end up in Wakulla Springs, where higher nitrogen levels are already feeding algae growth—something that has opponents of the wastewater plan concerned. But Wakulla County Administrator David Edwards says wetlands on the proposed site would absorb most of the nitrates. “At the end of the day, the water that we’ll be putting back in there will be better than what’s in there now,” he said.

Edwards says the county’s proposed project must clear the state permitting process to move forward. That means the county has to prove nitrogen levels in the water won’t exceed state Department of Environmental Protection standards.

Edwards says if approved the county has other plans for the site.

“We’re also planning to have it turn into a little wetland park just like Lake City and Gainesville, as well as Orlando. They do the same things, and it’s a very popular attraction. People go there for birding," Edwards said. "We’re going to tie it to our bike trail. We want to have it as an amenity to people because there will be no smell. There’s an active wetland that you can walk around."

A public hearing on the proposed wastewater discharge project will take place Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Wakulla County Community Center.

Local opponents have organized a protest car parade, which will leave Recreation Park about an hour before the meeting.