An Ocala company is moving ahead with plans to build a controversial water bottling plant near Sumterville.
SWR Properties, also known as Spring Water Resources, plans to build the plant later this year, according to a March 1 report provided to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The company has set up water monitoring equipment on the site along County Road 470.
The water management district issued a permit last June despite public opposition that allows the company to pump nearly 500,000 gallons of water daily from Fern Spring and an unnamed spring on the property, which SWR Properties owns. The water will be sold to Azure Water of Leesburg, which supplies stores with bottled water under several brand names.
Members of Protect Our Water, a citizen group opposing the permit, were granted approval for hearings by the state Division of Administrative Hearings to challenge the permit. But the hearings never took place after the members were told they could be responsible for substantial attorney’s fees.
Four gauges and a monitoring well were installed in November for biweekly measurement of water levels on the site, according to the report.
“SWR plans to install on-site production wells in 2017 and will commence reporting data once wells are actively pumping,” the report stated.
One of the gauges measures water levels in Belton’s Millpond, which is not on the property, but a state geologist expressed concern last year about the effect of the pumping on its water levels.
The company plans to pump 496,000 gallons of water daily from the 10.5-acre site, according to the permit application. The wells 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.
The permit application prompted more than 200 letters and emails to the water district opposing it and about 400 permit opponents attended a meeting last June of the Sumter County Board of Commissioners. The board has authority to approve zoning, building permits and roadway improvements for the pumping station.
A Phase 1 Water Shortage has been declared for the surrounding area, including The Villages. You can read more about that HERE