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Florida Legislators Vote on "Save Our Springs" Bill

April 6, 2009

Florida is home to the largest concentration of freshwater springs in the world, 700 in all, but environmental groups say the springs are suffering from pollution because of septic tank, storm water and fertilizer runoff.

Help may be on the way: the state Senate Committee for Community Affairs is voting today on a bill that would create "spring protection zones" requiring better application of fertilizer, high-performance septic tanks, and more careful land use planning in nearby areas to help protect the springs from human pollution.

Julie Wraithmell, wildlife policy coordinator for Audubon of Florida, says it's high time.

"The springs are in a rapid state of decline, and we can't afford to have to tell our children 20 years from now that we had a chance to save this resource, and we didn't."

She says national parks with springs bring more than two million people to Florida's rural communities each year, generating more than seven million dollars in revenue. And in these tight economic times, she says, attendance is up at nature's playgrounds.

"Having one of these eco-tourist destinations in your community is an important factor in maintaining jobs in your area and helping to recover from the current economic slump."

Wraithmell says the springs are also the window to Florida's aquifer, and if they continue to decline it could affect drinking water and the health of wildlife. She says most of all it is important to preserve the springs for future generations.

"Florida's springs are very much a part of who we are as a state. I think anyone that's ever been to a spring recognizes just what special places they are."

Developers argue that high-performance septic tanks would drive their costs up too much, and additional land use rules are too restrictive. Wraithmell however says developers would have cost savings in other areas, and saving the springs would save jobs.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL