Title: Water Experiment in Works
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00000800/00001
 Material Information
Title: Water Experiment in Works
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: St. Petersburg Times Article December 21, 1986 Treated waste would be pumped near well field.
General Note: Box 7, Folder 2 ( Vail Conference 1987 - 1987 ), Item 76
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: WL00000800
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

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Water experiment in works

Treated waste would be
pumped near well field
PhTrnjwwefl .Wni.._________
NEW PORT RICHEY Pasco officials
hope that West Pasco's major source of drinking
water will be the perfect place to pump up to
800,000 gallons of treated sewage waste water
each day.
The Starkey Well Field is a natural place for
all that waste water, they say, since it would
help offset the chronic depletion of water that
seems to be altering portions of its wilderness
What Pasco officials propose would be
unique in Florida. They believe the idea merits
r. the $150,000 study they want the region's
water management agency to help finance.
But the chief environmental official for the
agency that actually operates the Starkey Well
Field, the West Coast Regional Water Supply
Authority, thinks the proposal is just asking for
some big trouble.
Still others applaud Pasco's pluck but ques-
tion the plan itself. They include Sam Upchurch,
a Land O'Lakes resident who also happens to be
chairman of the University of South Florida's
department of geology.
"It'b really not that straightforward a plan,"
Upchurch said Friday. "But it's a good idea, it's
an excellent idea there are risks involved
with it. however. The risk is, of course, contami-
nation of the well field."
Pasco's problem, and the plan it proposes to
solve it, is this:
The county owns and operates the Deer
Park Waste Water Treatment Plant, less than a
quarter mile east of Little Road, about one mile
north of the Anclote River and about one mile
south of the Pithlachascotee River. Though few
people even know where the site is today, it is
located in the middle of one of the fastest
growing areas of the county. Subdivisions are
popping up all around the plant.
Though the plant itself now has plenty of
excess capacity to treat the area's future sew-
age demands. Pasco's problem has been to find
rome way to get rid of the effluent after most of
the waste has been removed. After a faulty
holding pond could not filter the water into the
sand below, the county advanced plans to run a
pipe to two nearby golf courses, where the
nutrient-rich water will keep the fairways green


That only takes care of a portion of the
problem, though. To get rid of even more waste
water, the county wants to treat the sewage and
pump the waste water into an adjoining swampy
area, a series of three bayheads where there are
many cypress trees.
If handled correctly, county officials and
their consulting engineers believe, the trees and
other vegetation in the swamp will use the
nutrients to grow, heavy metals will settle out,
and any viruses in the waste water will die
before leaving the swamp.
The State Department of Environmental

Regulation (DER) thinks the plan has some
merit. The agency indicated last month that it
might approve it temporarily as a closely moni-
tored experiment.
Just one other item, though: The "experi-
ment" site is adjacent to the west side of the
5,500-acre Starkey Well Field, the source of
drinking water for most West Pasco residerin.
Though the well field is owned by the
Southwest Florida Water Management District.
known commonly as Swiftmud, the wells and
Please see WATER Page 12

Water replenishment experiment
Pasco County wants to use treated waste water from its Deer Park
sewage plant to help replenish groundwater supplies in the Starkey
Well Field, the primary source of drinking water for West Pasco
residents. The water would be pumped into the disposal area, where
county officials hope the water will be drawn into the Starkey Well
Field. The county also wants Swiftmud to help pay for the
experimental proposal, the first of its kind in the state. In effect,
county officials say, Pasco has too much water to handle from its
waste-water treatment plants, while the well field has too little,
harming the well field's wilderness environment.

distribution system are operated
by the regional water supply au-
Friday, Scott Emery, environ-
mental services director for the
water supply authority, said he had
not even heard of Pasco's proposal.
"That bothers me a little bit," he
said, "especially when you consid-
er that this water is going to their
If an underground clay stratum
common to this region is not under
the wetlands area, Emery said,
"you could conceivably contami-
nate yourself."
.With what?
"Domestic waste-water plants
have their share of synthetic or-
ganic compounds dumped into
them," Emery said. "That includes
pesticides, the acetone in finger-
nail polish, benzene, gasoline, oil
and toluene that people pour down
their sinks. It's usually not enough
to upset the system, but there's
always some jerk with a 55-gallon
drum of something to dump in."
Anything else?
"Viruses are highly resistant"
to being killed, Emery said.
"They've been found to exist in
underground water supplies for up
to six months and have been found
still active up to 1,000 feet from
t where they were introduced.
S "Now, in a wetlands with a
sinkhole system, which the local
geology may include out by Star-
key, viruses could travel to a well-
head in a couple of days."
Pasco utilities manager Doug
Bramlett discounted those possi-
bilities Friday. Not only will Pasco
profit, he said, but so will the well
field, because a new source of wa-
ter may help stabilize a worrisome
shift in the wilderness area's plant
Twenty years ago, stands of
cypress trees and a shallow pond
were on the property that now
holds the well field. Today, the
same sites hold pine trees, red
maplesand other plant species that
require a less swampy environ-
That's the assessment of Theo-
dore Rockow, a Swiftmud biologist
who has closely monitored the
Starkey wilderness area for 12

The changes in which wet-
land plant life was replaced by
S plants thriving in a drier environ-
ment were becoming so pro-
nounced that West Coast Regional
cut back its water pumping in the
western portion of the well field
S two years ago. The agency is now
considering pumping water back
into the area to try to revive the
swampier environment.
"We did see a recovery of wa-
ter levels there," Rockow said Fri-
day, "but nowhere cose to what
the levels were in the 1960s."
"It's a research-and-develop-
ment type of project that'll be good
for both of us," Pasco's Bramlett
said of the plan, "especially if
waste water to wetlands becomes
commonplace, which I think it will
be in 15 years."
"What else are you going to do
with it?" he added. "There's not
much else you can do. It's a total
cycle of the water from out of
the well field, into the water sys-
tem, through the waste-water sys-
tem, into the wetlands, down into
the recharge area, up through the
wells and then you do it all over
Upchurch, USF's geology
chairman, did not wax so enthusi-
asticly about the proposal, though
he did think it was worthy of the
$75,000 Swiftmud grant Pasco is
seeking for the water conservation
"If it worked just exactly right,
the water would percolate very
slowly down into the Floridan
Aquifer, where it would replenish
Starkey," Upchurch said. "But
there's the possibility of two zin-
"One, the wetlands there are
often filled-in sinkholes," he con-
tinued. "If the water goes down
them too fast, the whole system
gets short-circuited. Two, if the
system works too well, then the
water doesn't go down."
"What'll probably happen is
something in-between," he
summed up. "It may work all right,
but you'll never really be able to
know for sure, because monitoring
something like that is terribly diffi-
cult to do."
Reflecting on it a few moments
more, Upchurch added, "It's one
of those things that somebody
sooner or later is going to have to
do because it's too obvious not to

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