Floridan Aquifer withdrawals affect the Okefenokee Swamp, so how could TPM’s withdrawals not? 1995-04-11

Water withdrawals from the Floridan Aquifer affect water levels and quality in the Okefenokee Swamp, a pair of researchers concluded 24 years before Twin Pines Minerals of Alabama proposed to withdraw 2.4 4.32 million gallons per day from the Aquifer for a titanium mine within a few miles of the Swamp:

Abstract. A rapid response is observed between water level fluctuations in the Okefenokee Swamp and water levels in the underlying Floridan Aquifer. A lag of approximately one month is common, and a hydraulic diffusivity of 3.83 x 10-3 m2 s-1 best matches the calculated aquifer response to the swamp water level perturbations. The magnitude of leakage between the swamp and the aquifer is uncertain because of a lack of knowledge about the specific storage coefficient in the aquitard separating the swamp and the aquifer which has not been explicitly measured. An intermediate value of specific storage within the likely range of values results in a down- ward vertical flow of 1.2 meters of water per year. This induced recharge can significantly alter the natural water balance within the swamp. Such a large loss of water from the swamp may be responsible for observed pH and water level changes, and increased beavy metal accumulations in aquatic organisms in the swamp.

We cited that study[5] on page 4 of the Suwannee Riverkeeper comments to USACE about TPM, just after noting Twin Pines application to withdraw 4.32 million gallons per day (mgd) of Floridan Aquifer water much closer to the Swamp than any other permitted withdrawal. TPM’s own hydrology study in that withdrawal application shows a cone of depression in the Floridan Aquifer extending under the Swamp:

[Figure 8. Drawdown 2930 days]
Figure 8. Drawdown 2930 days

How could that not affect Swamp water levels and content?

As pointed out to the Corps by Okefenokee Swamp Park (OSP), any change to the water level in the Swamp would affect the whole Swamp, as far as OSP on the north and Stephen C. Foster State Park on the west. The Swamp is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Mary’s Rivers, so anything that affects the Swamp can affect those rivers.

As we noted in a later blog post, 4.32 mgd is twice as much as all the permitted withdrawals in Charlton County, 4.32 times as much as the county seat, Folkston, and almost four times as much as the notorious Nestlé withdrawal request for Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River in Florida.

You can still comment to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the TPM mining application. Or to GA-EPD about this water withdrawal permit.

How to Comment

The current comment deadline is Tuesday, April 14, 2020, according to the Public Notice of March 13, 2020.

That thirty day deadline is grossly inadequate, especially considering that everyone is advised to stay home for eight weeks or 56 days because of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Plus the entire Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) application is hundreds of pages, and nobody can adequately absorb and analyze all that in thirty days.

While you are at home, you have a great opportunity to write a comment, and to write to your elected officials. You can also post your comments on social media, as op-eds, etc.

In your comment, perhaps you would like to ask for a deadline extension of 120 days, and a public hearing.

You can ask the Corps and other elected and appointed officials to deny the application, or to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to consider wider areas the mine may affect, especially the entire Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee and St Marys Rivers, and the rest of Trail Ridge in Georgia. You can ask for the EIS to include other mines relevant to this one, especially the four Chemours titanium strip mines in north Florida for which TPM, along with Chemours, is under a Florida Consent Order for a range of violations. You may want to ask for inclusion of the existing phosphate mine in Hamilton County, Florida, next to the Suwannee River, as well as the one proposed in Union and Bradford Counties, Florida, next to the New and Santa Fe Rivers, tributaries of the Suwannee. All those mines affect the Floridan Aquifer, which is the main source of water for drinking, agriculture, and industry for everyone in south Georgia and north Florida.

To comment, or to request a public hearing, you can write to
Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District,
Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707,
or by email to CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil or holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil.
In your comments please refer to:
Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554.

For the requested state permit regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, you can send a comment or request for public hearing to
Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.

For the Georgia Coastal Management Program certification, you can send a comment to
Federal Consistency Coordinator, Ecological Services Section, Coastal Resources Division,
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, Georgia 31523-9600
Telephone 912-264-7218.

The public announcement says: “The applicant may also require assent from the State of Georgia, which may be in the form of a license, easement, lease, permit, or other appropriate instrument.”

You can write to your Georgia state representative or senator or governor or lieutenant governor and ask them to refuse any such instrument.
To find your legislator you can type in your ZIP code here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
You can also write to your U.S. Representative or Senator and ask them to urge the Corps to reject this mine or at least require an EIS, like Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) already did.

You can also write to the Georgia DNR board, asking them to refuse any such instrument.
Georgia Board of Natural Resources
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334

To submit a letter to the editor of the Charlton County Herald, you can email editor@charltonherald.com.
Or write to your local newspaper.
You can also contact radio, TV, and of course post on social media.

5 Kitchens, S and Rasmussen, TC. Hydraulic Evidence for Vertical Flow From Okefenokee Swamp To The Underlying Floridan Aquifer In Southeast Georgia. Proceedings of the 1995 Georgia Water Resources Conference, held April 11 and 12, 1995, at The University of Georgia, Kathryn J. Hatcher, Editor, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. https://smartech.gatech.edu/handle/1853/44003, http://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/#docs

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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