Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) is keeping his promise to constituents to oppose the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's approval of plans by Waste Management to install a deep injection disposal well at the Springhill Landfill in Jackson County.
Waste Management currently disposes of wastewater by using holding tanks, transporting them to treatment facilities in other area cities. The proposed 4,000 feet-deep well would change that - becoming the new method of disposal.
Several Washington and Holmes County residents have joined those in Jackson County who oppose the plan, fearing the well could contaminate the water in neighboring Jackson County and affect water quality here as well.
"(I have) deep concerns that the disposal well could not only impact our water supply, but question if this well is even needed at all," said Gainer in a letter to Interim DEP Secretary Ryan Matthews on Tuesday.
"Waste Management has said, if permitted, it has future plans to dispose of leachate water using the deep well. At a recent public hearing, it was disclosed that there is more than adequate capacity at existing locations to dispose of the leachate. It is clear that a new deep injection disposal well is not needed. For that very reason, the permit request should be denied."
Gainer went on to warn disposal of the leachate water in a new well could cause contamination to seep into the Upper Floridan aquifer - the source of drinking water for most of the state.
"The risk is just too great," he said. "I cannot stress enough my total opposition to this permit being issued."
Waste Management officials, who gained an exploratory well permit from DEP earlier this year, does not allow injection into the well or disposal of the wastewater.
Jackson County Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the permit - but were essentiality told by DEP they did not have a say in the matter, citing that Florida’s environmental laws and regulations are within the department's jurisdiction.
In a response to a question by the Jackson County Floridan as to if public sentiment plays a role in DEP’s decision, the department advised public comment is an important part of the permitting process.
"In this specific case, should the project move from the exploratory stage to the testing phase, and later to the operational stage, it would undergo two separate permitting processes which would both include separate public comment periods and public meetings." a DEP representative told the Floridan.
Meanwhile, Gainer echoed concerns voiced by Jackson County residents, who said officials appeared to fly the deal in under the radar.
"I am deeply concerned with the number of inconsistencies in the presentation made before the citizens of Jackson County," he said. "I am also troubled by the entire process."
Gainer advised Matthews he expects DEP to brief him on the findings of the department's review before any final decisions are made.