Opponents of water-pumping plan gathering steam in battle to overturn permit 

Opponents of a plan to withdraw nearly 500,000 gallons of water daily from two springs near Sumterville are building their case to overturn the 20-year permit, claiming the Ocala company’s application contains inaccurate information.

Representing the citizens group Protect Our Water, Villager Ken Werremeyer said the two springs, Fern Spring and an unnamed spring, are not really springs at all, but vents in the karst formation, a landscape formed by dissolution of soluble rocks. The company analyzed water flow rates and other impacts in its application.

“The statement there are two natural springs is based on untrue and inaccurate information and its submission should not have been included in the application for the permit,” Werremeyer wrote in a letter to Brian Armstrong, executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

He also wrote that a large sinkhole about 600 feet west of the proposed well was not identified in the application or supporting materials and that the Historic Sumterville Cemetery, within 200 feet of the well location, also was not mentioned.

In a written response to Werremeyer, Darrin Herbst, chief of the state Water Use Permit Bureau, outlined the criteria for a permit application, which include that the proposed use is beneficial, in the public interest and will not harm water resources. Herbst wrote than he could not discuss pending litigation.

SWR Properties of Ocala, also known as Spring Water Resources, plans to pump 496,000 gallons of water daily from Fern Spring and an unnamed spring on a 10.5-acre site it owns. According to the permit application, the well normally would operate 13 hours daily and fill 80 trucks with 6,200 gallons each, but in peak months, it would operate around-the-clock and pump 892,000 gallons, filling 144 trucks.

As part of its application, SWR Properties presented a hydrological analysis of the project’s impact on the two springs and the Florida aquifer.

The analysis estimated the well would lower the surficial aquifer by 0.4 feet and would lower the Florida aquifer by 0.25 feet. Estimated flow rates of the two springs are 11.8 million gallons a day

The permit was approved in early June despite public opposition. The water management district found requests by two villagers “timely and substantial” enough to grant an administrative hearing in the case, which may be held in early October. The hearing by the state Division of Administrative Hearings is similar to an appeal of the permit approval and could overturn it.

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