Villagers opposed to water bottling plan organizing efforts to block permit

Opposition to a proposed water bottling operation in Sumter County has spawned a Villages group against the project.

The steering committee for The POW (Protect Our Water) was scheduled to meet Sunday, according to villager Joe Flynn.

More than 200 emails and letters in opposition to the bottling plan have been sent to the state Water Use Permit Bureau over the past six weeks and an overflow crowd objecting to the project attended a March meeting of the Sumter County Commission.

Meanwhile, two Villagers attended a state-sponsored public meeting last week about the Ocala company’s plan to pump nearly 500,000 gallons of water daily from two springs along County Road 470 near Sumterville.

“The applicant has not demonstrated a need for the water,” Villager Michael Schobinger said at the meeting. “There is plenty of bottled water on supermarket shelves.”

He also said the pumping could damage Belton’s Millpond and spring, which are nearby, and that an engineering firm found a hydrologic connection between the spring and drilling site.

Other issues raised by Schobinger included the county’s explosive population growth and increased traffic on U.S. 301 and CR 470.

“The extraction will impact every current legal water user and every future water user,” he said during his three-minute remarks.

The Fern Spring project was among a half dozen water projects discussed at the public meeting, which was held at the offices of the Southwest Florida Water Management District in Tampa.

SWR Properties of Ocala, also known as Spring Water Resources, applied last fall for a 20-year permit to begin pumping by November. The water would be sold to Azure Water of Leesburg, which supplies grocery, convenience and other stores with bottled water under several brand names.

The company has said the well normally would operate 13 hours daily, filling 80 trucks with 6,200 gallons each. It would operate 24 hours a day during peak months, pumping 892,000 gallons daily and filling 144 trucks.

Two months ago, the company was given 90 days by the Water Use Permit Bureau to clarify the project’s impact on Belton’s Millpond.

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