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Approval of new water pumping permit has environmental groups concerned about the future of springs

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 11:30 PM EST
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LIVE OAK, Fla. (WCJB) - Ryan Smart, the Executive Director of the Florida Springs Council, said the Suwannee River Water Management District’s decision to approve the bottling permit for Seven Springs, which sells to Nestlé, is disappointing.

“The Suwannee River Water Management District, like Florida’s other water management districts, has done a very poor job of taking the health of our waters or the public’s interest into account when it comes to consumptive use permitting decisions.”

According to Smart, the Santa Fe River is in a recovery stage, meaning there should be no pumping. He believes this would have been the right time to draw the line.

“We don’t need governing boards if they are just going to be a rubber stamp for permits and bless whatever it is that staff says. Governing boards are there to have their own opinions and represent us in these permitting decisions.”

RELATED STORY: Seven Springs and Nestle’s renewal of water pumping permit for Ginnie Springs approved

A Nestlé spokesperson provided TV20 the following statement “Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) is pleased that the Suwannee River Water Management District has issued the Seven Springs permit. The Governing Board considered the entire permit application, as well as the Department of Administrative Hearings Recommended Order. As we have previously noted, the DOAH Judge applied the scientific evidence and the law to rule that the permit renewal should be issued to Seven Springs. NWNA will continue to take great care to help ensure the amount of water we purchase from Seven Springs is sustainable and will not adversely impact the springs or surrounding wetlands.”

In January, an administrative law judge ruled that there is no reason for the water management district to deny the application.

Smart said people who disagree with this approval should take action.

“Don’t buy bottled water whatever you do, just don’t buy bottled water. If you take away the market, it sounds simplistic, but if you take away the market for them, it really is the number 1 thing to get at a company like Nestlé, boycott Nestlé.”

According to Smart, water resources and the environment drive Florida’s economy, not water bottles.

“The water belongs to the people of Florida, and they should have some say in how it is used.”

RELATED STORY: Suwannee River Water Management District recommends to deny Seven Springs permit

At least one environmental group plans to file a lawsuit to force the bottler to compensate the state for removing the water.

To find out more about the Florida Springs Council, click here.

If you would like to find out more about Nestlé, click here.

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