U.S. EPA Approves State’s Restoration Target for Silver Springs

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s restoration target for Silver Springs, called a total maximum daily load, has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Department adopted the total maximum daily load for nitrate, in this case a maximum acceptable concentration, at 0.35 milligrams per liter in November. This is the same water quality target the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set for springs — based on the Department’s data — and that has been upheld in both state and federal courts. Meeting the target nitrate concentration will be a major step toward bringing the Silver Springs system back into balance.The Department received this letter notifying of the approval.

“This action solidifies and supports the scientific foundation of the restoration plan currently under development by the Department,” said Drew Bartlett, Director of the Department’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “This paves the way for the actions that will ultimately restore this iconic spring.”

The Department’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration recently held the first meeting to develop this restoration plan, or basin management action plan, for Silver Springs. Understanding the problem based on hard data and science and addressing it through concrete actions developed with local stakeholders will help restore the springshed and protect it into the future.

But the Department is not waiting to finish planning before investing in projects to improve water quality. For example, the Department is contributing $300,000, along with Marion County ($300,000) and the St. Johns River Water Management District ($100,000) to eliminate the discharge from the Silver Springs Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, located within 1.5 miles of the main boil of Silver Springs. Wastewater will be redirected to the Silver Springs Shores Wastewater Treatment Plant, which provides higher level treatment and is 10 miles from the head spring.

In a subsequent phase of the project, a series of small “package” wastewater treatment plants will also be connected to the Silver Springs Shores facility, which will provide better treatment and reduce pollution. Implementation of these actions collectively will eliminate some two tons of nitrogen currently discharged into the Silver Springs system every year.

In January, the Department announced that the Silver Springs Attraction will become a state park Oct. 1, 2013, following a vote by the Governor and Cabinet. Department staff members are conducting an environmental site assessment on the property and work is expected to start next week on the transition from a for-profit amusement park into a state park. Parks staff members, through public input, have developed a Interim Facilities and Operations Plan and continue work on a long-term management plan.

The Division of Environment Assessment and Restoration and Division of Recreation and Parks continue to work together to identify additional and future environmental cleanup projects that aim to restore Silver Springs, while converting it to one of Florida’s award-winning state parks, greenways and trails.

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