Trying to make a difference
The thing about working for a small-town paper is the chance to maybe make a difference -- even though the pay is lousy (hence my part-time job) and the benefits nearly nil.
I believe it's part of my calling. God might put me in some other post in the future, but this is what I'm supposed to be doing now.
Of course, I don't inject that into my stories, but I can say it here, and not care if I sound like a religious nut.
Protecting the environment is part of my concern - we are trustees of the Earth, not
its masters. We're charged with protecting and conserving this beautiful, fragile orb that floats through space.
The LandLord is not pleased with what we're doing to his planet.
I've watched a developer trying to put a huge marina into the heart of an aquatic preserve on the river, upstream from Blue Spring State Park, a manatee habitat area.
About two weeks ago, I heard divers were complaining about the water quality at Blue Spring, and investigated.
I got mad, after taking a look at cloudy, sickly-green looking water.
Part of the clouding came from limestone particles in the water, from the collapse of an underground cavern in the spring system. While such collapses occur spontaneously, I think they're occurring more often because of wells pumping water out of the aquifer - the river of water that runs beneath the earth and limestone in Florida. It's the source of our drinking water, and the source of the water that bubbles up from the boil at Blue Spring.
Combine a year of low rainfall with all the wells, municipal and private, drawing water out of the aquifer, and some of these caverns that are normally filled with water dry out. They become weaker without the water to help hold their walls in place. Then, after a heavy rainfall, more water washes into them, and walls collapse from the impact.
Cloudiness caused from dissolved limestone in the water was starting to improve when I went out there. It was up to around 15 feet, when a week before, it was only 7-8 feet.
Problems from algae remain, though, and the park manager is concerned about the spring's health.
This is my photo taken at Blue Spring run 11 days ago.
This is the run as shown on a state Web site. Manatees swim through crystal-clear water.
Blue Spring sits at the low point of a big basin that takes in surrounding towns and unincorporated but developed areas. Water can wash directly into the river and run area of the spring as runoff after rain; it can percolate down into the aquifer and into the spring, or it can run into sinkholes for a pretty direct route into the aquifer. This runoff is filled with nitrates, because people like to fertilze their lawns. Fertilzers contain high levels of nutrients to fertilize grass. Those nutrients also feed algae.
[Of course, after fertilizing the lawn, people want to water it, pulling more water from those underground caverns.]
Septic systems also contain a lot of nitrates, and bacteria, too. Last summer, the spring was closed twice due to unacceptable levels of f coli and enterococcus bacteria.
We have an ailing spring and manatee preserve. It's suffering from development we've already done. Now we have developers who want to build huge projects on either side of it - the developer I mentioned before, who's fighting the state's denial of the project because of environmental concerns, and another developer who wants to build a huge resort complex with more docks on the other side of the spring.
I've reported forced resignations of environmentally-friendly county planners and written about the flap between a county manager and environmentalists who charge he is too developer-friendly. I've been in the uncomfortable situation of being the only one to report on what's been going on. A political columnist for one of the other papers has written a column on it, thank goodness.
Agencies charged with protecting the environment often compromise with bargaining developers. I'm going to be watching and telling what they do.
What's going on would be enough to make a true saint angry.
We can't just blame it all on developers and officials. We have to change our ways - all of us - as consumers, as protectors of the environment and as watchdogs of our public officials.