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Local environmentalists say new Wakulla Springs regulations don't go far enough

Posted at 7:55 PM, May 02, 2023

WAKULLA COUNTY, FL (WTXL) — The Wakulla County Commission is continuing forward with repealing and replacing the Wakulla Springs Protection Regulations with new rules.

The ordinance, kept on the table by commissioners Monday, would add new restrictions and safe-guards aimed to prevent pollution into the springs and Wakulla River. Officials with county said this will drastically help protect the water, but many don't think this goes far enough.

Local environmentalists like Bob Deyle said there needs to be regulations on building properties like a gas station over a cave system that leads into the Wakulla Springs.

Regulations like setbacks, which change how far construction needs to be from the street.

"There are still many people that feel like setbacks are the way to go," Deyle said. "It doesn't make sense to allow storage of petroleum products or hazardous substances when you know there is a cave somewhere down there, 50 feet, 100 feet below the surface."

A cave that connects to Wakulla Springs, a beautiful space for wildlife and an important natural resource for needs like drinking water.

The county, putting forward a new set of regulations for builders looking to construct near the springs, requiring natural barrier protection to store gas below the surface and ways to catch hazardous materials before reaching groundwater.

But, commissioners said they cannot place requirements on how far back to place a possible gas station on Bloxham Cuttoff because they said they cannot verify the cave system.

Peter Scalco, a former park manager at Wakulla Springs and Director of Clean Water Wakulla, said setbacks are needed.

"That's all we're asking for to protect the world-class resources that we are known for that have been protected for decades," Scalco said.

In a statement to ABC 27, a spokesperson with Wakulla County wrote that the new regulations "...demonstrates our commitment to sustainable and responsible environmental practices..." and will protect the springs for years to come.

People like Bob Deyle, the vice-chair of the Wakulla Springs Alliance, said the regulations could be somewhat helpful, but need to be more specific with what natural protection is needed in order to put in things like gas tanks.

"It simply says at the moment that if there is any overburden or confining layer that gasoline can be stored below ground tanks, but it says that hazardous waste and hazardous substances as they're listed by the federal government have to be stored above ground," Deyle said.

Deyle noting that gasoline has hazardous materials in it.

With gasoline's high potential to pollute water, Scalco said this could contaminate drinking water if the gas leaks.

"The chemicals that are used to remediate for pollutants in water and for chemicals are carcinogens themselves. So, it could have very detrimental health issues associated with it. It could render water undrinkable."

The next stop for the new ordinance is public hearings within the next few weeks.