Geologist says pumping water out of spring won’t trigger sinkholes in The Villages

The proposed pumping of nearly 500,000 gallons of water daily by an Ocala company from two springs along County Road 470 near Sumterville is unlikely to increase sinkhole activity in The Villages, an engineering consultant wrote in a filing earlier this month with the state Water Use Permit Bureau.

Vivian Bielski, senior project geologist the Andreyev Engineering of St. Petersburg, based her opinion on water level and impact analyses as well as the fact that other major water bodies are between The Villages and the well site.

“It is very reasonable to assume there will be no effect from this proposed withdrawal on The Villages development area,” she said.

Bieski said she was responding to concerns raised at a recent public meeting. Villages residents have raised concerns about the project’s impact on sinkholes and the low water level of ponds this spring.

In a separate document, Bieski also said the company will implement a monitoring plan to address concerns raised over the project’s impact on Belton’s Millpond and other nearby water bodies. The company would monitor water levels monthly and prepare an annual analysis by March 1 each year.

“The analysis will address the potential effect of the metered withdrawals on area water elevation along with the potential for effects from the range of area rainfall,” she wrote. “The results of the analysis will be utilized to determine if there are times when the withdrawal should be reduced to alleviate the potential for impacts.”

Two months ago, Ralph Kerr, a senior professional geologist with the Water Use Permit Bureau, gave the company three months to clarify the project’s anticipated impact on Belton’s Millpond. Kerr’s letter said the pumping could drain the millpond and the request amount of water might need to be reduced.

SWR Properties of Ocala, also known as Spring Water Resources, has requested a 20-year state permit to pump 496,000 gallons of water daily from Fern Spring and an unnamed spring on a 10.5-acre property it owns. The well normally would operate 13 hours a day and fill 80 trucks with 6,200 gallons each, according to the company’s application. In peak months, it would operate 24 hours daily, pumping 892,000 gallons and filling 144 trucks.

The water would be sold to Azure Water of Leesburg, which supplies grocery, convenience and other stores with bottled water under several brand names

Meanwhile, a Villages group opposed to the pumping has requested a copy of all documents related to the case from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, including the permit application, attachments, exhibits and correspondence. 

In a May 10 letter, Marsha Shearer of Protect Our Water also asked that fees be waived for the public records request.

More than 200 emails and letters objecting to the project, many from Villagers, have been sent to the Water Use Permit Bureau over the past two months. An overflow crowd opposed to the pumping attended a March meeting of the Sumter County Commission.

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