An effort launched by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 to explore what was wrong with the springs and fix it was disbanded by Gov. Rick Scott. While the Bush springs initiative existed, it spent a total of $25 million.
Bush appointed a springs task force that produced a report full of recommendations. All were ignored by the Legislature, except for one: a bill that finally passed in 2010 requiring inspections of septic tanks to check for leaks. There are about 2.6 million septic tanks in the state, half of them more than 30 years old.
But when septic tank owners objected to the $150 inspection price, legislators repealed the law last year.
Prior to this year’s legislative session, the DEP asked the state’s five water management districts for a list of possible projects that would help the springs. The agencies sent back a list of projects that, if they were all approved, would cost $122 million -- just to start.
One of the key components: $10 million to replace septic tanks and small sewage plants near some of the state’s key springs in hopes of reducing their leaking of pollution into the aquifer.
The list included a host of other ideas aimed at boosting both water quality and quantity in the springs. There were proposals for removing built-up sediment that’s blocking spring vents to building canoe launching sites to installing new reclaimed water pipelines that will help cut back on groundwater pumping.
One proposal calls for spending $14.5 million on building a water treatment plant to take 4 million gallons a day out of the St. Johns River and use it for drinking water instead of pumping water out of the ground.
The 450-page budget, including the $10 million for springs, hit Gov. Rick Scott’s desk Thursday. He has until May 24 to decide what to veto and what to approve. A spokeswoman for Scott said he is currently reviewing the springs funding but has made no decision about it yet.
Craig Pittman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org