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Digging of two wells recommended

Dozens of residents from both sides of the Hernando-Pasco county line left a two-hour meeting Wednesday disappointed after the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission narrowly voted to recommend approval of a well field site for Florida Water Services.

More than 70 residents turned out to oppose the plan by Florida Water, which wants to build two wells on the east side of Suncoast Boulevard about 800 feet north of County Line Road. The wells would each pump 750,000 gallons a day, the company said.

Residents turned out to complain about the proposal, fearing that the pumping would lead to sinkholes and draw down their own wells.

But Anthony Palmieri, chairman of the commission, told residents they could not speak about sinkholes and water levels because those issues were outside the commission's jurisdiction. The Southwest Florida Water Management District, known as Swiftmud, handles those issues, he said. The commission handles land-use questions.

The commission voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the plan to the County Commission, which has the final say in December. Planning commissioners Al Sevier and Nick Nicholson voted against it.

The pair said they couldn't support the plan without ground penetrating radar tests done ahead of time to see if the area would be vulnerable to sinkholes.

"I do have problems with the long-term effects," Sevier said. He also questioned whether the company needs more wells. "You have more than enough."

But company officials and attorneys say Florida Water needs more services both for current customers and new residents.

"The company is teetering on the edge of being able to supply its current customers with water," said Brooksville attorney Joe Mason, representing the company.

Residents protested that they would not benefit from the added service because they have their own wells. Instead, their property values would drop, they said. And even though Palmieri admonished them not to talk about sinkholes and drained water levels, many managed to inject those concerns into their comments.

"Basically, it's going to destroy me," said Demetrios Intzes, who owns property close to the site. "I won't be able to sell" once interested buyers see a well field nearby, he said. If he decides to put a plant nursery on his property, he said, he fears he might not be able to get enough water out of his well for it.

"I'm going to be filling up my toilets with bottled water, I guess, when our wells go dry," he said.

Amid an emotional meeting marked by clapping, hooting and yelling, some Pasco residents said more of their numbers should have been involved.

"I don't know if any of the people in Pasco County know what's happening here," said John Cokin, a resident on the Pasco side of the line.

But Florida Water experts and representatives said the wells would not draw down water levels. As for sinkholes, Swiftmud will consider that issue.

Meanwhile, additional water services are needed for Seven Hills, East Linden Estates and Wellington, they said.

"I personally feel that's where they should put the well fields," said resident David Brogle.