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Drilling in Clearwater parks will hurt aquifer

Drilling in parks will hurt aquifer

Just last week, the city of Clearwater obtained zoning approval from the Clearwater Community Development Board to drill 13 new wellheads on city-owned property previously zoned for open space and recreation, despite objections from several residents. Unless this approval is appealed by June 2, the city will be free to start drilling new wells in or around several city parks. The City Council already has awarded the construction contracts, and barring an objection to the zoning approval, drilling will start within two weeks.

The city's growing population needs for water. Why not tap the water that's sitting below our city parks?

Think of the city of Clearwater as being built over a bucket of water. That water does not have any boundaries. It is free to flow wherever it can. When the city pumps water out from under the city parks, some of the water flows back in from under neighboring homes. Several U.S. Geological Survey reports have directly linked pumping from the aquifer with increasing sinkhole development.

But the real problem comes from the fact that the city of Clearwater is surrounded by salt water. As more water is drawn from that bucket below our city parks, there is more pressure from the surrounding salt water to fill in that cavity. If there is not sufficient rain to replenish the water the city pumps out of the aquifer, the surrounding gulf waters will flow right in, destroying the remaining fresh water in the bucket.

The city is aware of this problem. An excerpt from a consultant's report prepared for the city in 2002 says:

"Throughout the (city of Clearwater) well field's history, there have been increasing concentrations of chlorides (salts), causing a decrease in well field production to 3 MGD over the past decade (prior to 2002) to maintain acceptable water quality."

The city is permitted by the Southwest Florida Water Management District to pump up to twice that amount at 6.25 million gallons per day (MGD) from its existing wells. It does not appear that they are capable of taking that much water out of the bucket without causing salt water intrusion or other environmental problems. In 2007, they pumped an average of 5 MGD, and 4 MGD in 2008. The city engineers feel that by putting more straws in the bucket and taking more water out from more locations spread around the city, this problem can be managed.

This is just throwing good money after bad. Our tax dollars are being spent to put more straws in the bucket, when the evidence shows that there might not be enough water in the bucket to pump without causing irreparable damage to the aquifer. At best, the entire expense of this project including the subsequent operation of these additional wells will be to produce 1 to 2 MGD of fresh water. At worst, it's throwing tax dollars away if the city finds it can't pump more water without damaging the environment.

Why haven't you heard about this? The city has attempted to keep this out of the public attention by notifying only those residents within 200 feet of the proposed new wells. Apparently, the city believes the only residents affected by this additional drilling are those who have to look out their windows at a drilling platform instead of a beautiful city park.

Gary Shellenberger, Clearwater

Blinking light reveals problems

Tuesday at 9 a.m. I attempted to turn at the traffic light at Harn Boulevard and U.S. 19 N in Clearwater. The light was blinking red in both directions so, to prevent an accident, I called 911 to notify them of a potentially dangerous situation.

First, when I called 911, the operator said hello and did not identify the line as "911, what is the nature of your emergency?" which I thought was policy. Secondly, I informed them of the light outage and was informed that they were aware of the situation and a response team was en route.

When I returned to the intersection at 9:30, the light was still out, no police were present conducting traffic, and the southbound lane on U.S. 19 was backed up past the overpass at State Road 60 more than a half-mile away.

I called 911 again. Again, they did not identify the line as an emergency line. I was quite upset at this and asked to speak to the Clearwater Police Department. I was transferred to a Clearwater police sergeant, who, after I had identified myself with my phone number and name, said that two of his officers were there and left because the traffic was moving smoothly.

I find it interesting that traffic backed up for more than a half-mile on U.S. 19 is traffic moving smoothly.

Chris Grad, St. Petersburg

Take yourself out to the ball game

I recently went to a Clearwater Threshers baseball game at Brighthouse Networks Field in Clearwater. In these tough economic times, it was refreshing to be able to spend an evening in a clean, attractive stadium for so little money.

I bet there weren't 500 people there. This stadium was built for the people and they don't take advantage of it. You don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it, either. Come out, Clearwater, and enjoy what you paid for.

John R. Sharp Jr., Clearwater

Thanks, city staff, for all that you do

Recently, I had a street light issue that required action by the Clearwater city manager. In the past, I had problems with pot holes and litter removal that fell under the jurisdiction of Public Works. On all occasions, notification of the problem in the morning resulted in positive action by the city within hours, not days.

For decades now, I have been at odds with the actions and agenda priorities of the Clearwater City Council. However, when it comes to staff performance, we are all on the same page. Thank you, Clearwater staff and management, for all you do.

John Wiser, Clearwater

>>your voice counts

You may submit a letter to the editor for possible publication through our Web site at www.tampabay.com/letters, or by faxing it to (727) 445-4119, or by mailing it to Letters, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. You must include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length.

Drilling in Clearwater parks will hurt aquifer 05/26/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 4:19pm]

    

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