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Wakulla Co. breaks ground on golf course to replenish aquifer with treated water

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CRAWFORDVILLE, FL (WTXL) — Wakulla County officials and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection broke ground on the Wakulla Sands Golf Club, which will use reclaimed water to maintain land and add to the aquifer.

County leaders said it is a game changer for maintaining the state's drinking water source, and helping to preserve Florida's natural ecosystems.

The Wakulla Sands Golf Course will deliver hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of gallons, of treated water to the Florida aquifer. This is something that Wakulla County Administrator David Edwards said will set Wakulla County up for environmental success for years to come.

"It keeps our clean environment clean. And it continues to expound on what we are doing. That is the real benefit," Edwards said. "It costs a little bit more for us and our sewer bills are a little bit more, but what we're getting, we're not harming the environment."

Edwards said using rapid infiltration basins to collect treated water within the course will help replenish the state's main drinking water source: the aquifer.

Avid golfer Mark Mitchell said this will add to the quality of life for people like him living in the county but will also protect a resource he said is invaluable.

"Living on the Wakulla Springs Basin, it's important we put as much water back into the aquifer as we can rather than taking it out and what better place to do that than a golf course?" Mitchell said. "We're spreading the water and it's going back into the aquifer and it's wonderful."

Another feature of the course: a waste-water spray system, which will use reclaimed water to maintain the grass and other vegetation on the field.

Anthony Gaudio, chair of the Wakulla Springs Alliance and a veteran wastewater specialist, said even this treated water could add up and bring more harmful nitrates to the springs and aquifer.

However, he noted that the project has many great benefits and is better than disposing of the water in other ways.

"The positives outweigh the negatives because it is better than the alternative and you have to dispose of the waste water somewhere," Gaudio said. "We have to be vigilant about preventing nitrates from getting into the springs."

With that vigilance in mind, Edwards said the county will do all they can do prevent those nitrates from polluting water.

"We're treating the water at a wastewater treatment plant, removing 98 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorus and that water will come back to the golf course and be sprayed," Edwards said. "What is not uptaked (sic) by the grass and infiltration will percolate itself down and almost be zero once it reaches the aquifer. "

Edwards also said construction on the project is set to finish in September. People will be able to tee off on the course some time around May of 2024.