Phosphate and titanium mining, water withdrawals, and trash @ NCFRPC 2023-01-26

The North Central Florida Regional Planning Council had several public speakers cram topics into their three minutes each.

[Phosphate and Titanium Mines, and Trash @ NCFRPC 2023-01-26]
Phosphate and Titanium Mines, and Trash @ NCFRPC 2023-01-26

Two directly-affected women and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, a board member of Our Santa Fe River (OSFR), talked about the Cornerstone Crossings mega development on top of Clay Hole Creek and Cannon Creek confluence, a part of the Ichetucknee Trace, which is in the Southwest quadrant of I-75 and SR 47 Hwy interchange, due south of Lake City in Columbia County, Florida. Merillee wondered about the development’s water withdrawal permit, and how much PFAS it might unleash into the waterways and the underlying Floridan Aquifer. She displayed LiDAR maps she got from SRWMD that clearly show the Ichetucknee Trace.

[Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson --Stew Lilker]
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson –Stew Lilker

Dixie County Council Member Jody Stephenson said he had been bringing up aquifer problems such as sinkholes in detention ponds since before there was LiDAR, so apparently there is some support on the Council.

Merrillee pointed out that this proposed development is on top of the Cody Scarp, and near Trail Ridge, all also sites of problem mining operations.. While HPS II on January 19th withdrew from Bradford County its permit applicationfor a phosphate mine, Nutrien is still rumored to want to expand its phosphate mining from Hamilton County across the Suwannee River into Columbia County.

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman noted that the same phosphate field continues across the state line into Echols County, Georgia, southwest of the Okefenokee Swamp.

[John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper --Stew Lilker]
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper –Stew Lilker

Both he and Merrilee mentioned that also on January 19th, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) opened a 60-day public comment period on the Mining Land Use Plan (MLUP) for a titanium strip mine on Trail Ridge southeast and within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp. He asked NCFRP to review the MLUP and send comments to GA-EPD.

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman noted that those miners, Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM), were still under a Florida Consent Order for spilling wastewater during Hurricane Irma and other violations.

TPM’s president was also the proponent of two biomass plants in north Georgia. One of them caused a massive fish kill. Both of them caused the Georgia legislature to literally pass a law banning burning railroad ties. Franklin County, Georgia, initially supported the biomass plant there, but since sued the miners and wrote to Charlton County recommending stopping the titanium mine proposed there.

Suwannee Riverkeeper’s first topic was the January 31st deadline for public comment on the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan (NFRWSP), being revised after the first version of 2016. It still contains no water budget nor plans to limit new water withdrawals nor to phase down old ones. It does include expensive aquifer recharge projects such as a 48-inch pipe from the Suwannee River near White Springs to Falling Creek Sink to recharge Ichetucknee Springs, even though there are simpler and much less expensive methods available. He asked the NCFRPC to comment to SRWMD and SJRWMD about the NFRWSP.

And his last topic was “getting the band back together”, reminding NCFRPC of its role in convincing GA-EPD to levy a Consent Order and fine on Valdosta about its chronic sewage situation. That helped a lot. But Valdosta still has a chronic trash problem, coming down its creeks and getting into the Withlacoochee River all the way to Florida and the Suwannee River. He asked NCFRPC to take similar action about Valdosta’s trash problem.

He ran out of time before he could explain further that the trash is beer cans, plastic water bottles, and styrofoam fast food containers. Valdosta continues not to enforce its own ordinances which require parking lot owners not to let trash escape and to strategically place trash cans and keep them cleaned out. While Valdosta did last summer finally place one trash trap on the worst creek, Sugar Creek, the city expects volunteers to clean it out. And despite many months of promises, additional trash traps on other creeks have not arrived.

All this is even though Valdosta’s own 2010 Stormwater Master Plan described and depicted this problem on many creeks, noted that children play in those creeks, making it a public health problem, and said it needed to be fixed “immediately.”

Finally, Columbia County Reporter’s Stew Lilker recommended that NCFRPC get its meeting information on its website before the meeting.

[Stew Lilker, Columbia County Reporter]
Stew Lilker, Columbia County Reporter

They did get a notice paragraph of this meeting in their calendar before the meeting, but it did not link to the actual Public Notice PDF. That PDF (which Stew Lilker had obtained and WWALS had published), recommended:

Please be advised that the Council meeting packet is posted on the Council website at (click on Upcoming Meetings and Meeting Packets, then click on North Central Florida Regional Planning Council Full Packet.)

But this meeting was not listed there.

Lauren Yeatter, Senior Planner, NCFRPC, said the packet was on the website under documents.

[Lauren Yeatter, Senior Planner, NCFRPC]
Lauren Yeatter, Senior Planner, NCFRPC

NCFRPC E.D. Scott Koons said there was a notification list for interested parties. Planner Yeatter said send her email and she would add me to that list. So I did, to: Maybe you would like to get on that interested parties list, as well.

Before all that, the scheduled Guest Speaker, Troy Roberts, Communications and Outreach Manager for the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), talked about permitting and access to SRWMD public lands, including some very useful maps.

[Troy Roberts, SRWMD --Stew Lilker]
Troy Roberts, SRWMD –Stew Lilker

I will follow up with NCFRPC on several of these issues.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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One thought on “Phosphate and titanium mining, water withdrawals, and trash @ NCFRPC 2023-01-26

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