Dye release looks to track water from Lake Jackson to Wakulla Springs
From the Tallahassee Democrat
Dye was released this week into Lake Jackson’s Porter Sink to track how water travels south to Wakulla Springs and how it could be contributing to pollution there.
It’s the next effort by the Wakulla Springs Alliance in tracing the impact ground water has as it flows through the miles of underground caverns to one of the largest springs in the world.
The red dye will take an estimated 40 days to get to the springs. But it may not. The St. Marks River and Spring Creek will also be monitored for signs of the dye.
In recent years, Wakulla Springs’ once crystal clear waters have turned a greenish hue with the increase of nitrates making their way from upstream. Algae and invasive plants have started to thrive uncontrollably.
Lake Jackson’s sinkholes, which break open and drain the lake periodically, funnel water from the lake directly into the aquifer. Because it and other water sources don’t flow into creeks and rivers, there is less to filter out harmful pollutants, said Sean McGlynn, executive director of the Wakulla Springs Alliance.
“All this water runs off the highway. It comes off people’s roofs. It flushes out people’s septic tanks that are failing,” McGlynn said.
“We’re checking all possible sources of pollution and these lakes are a source. We’re getting algae in Wakulla Springs and we think that’s contributing to the lack of water clarity.”
McGlynn is helping in developing a basin management plan to address the increase in pollution reaching Wakulla Springs lately.
Part of the plan has been to conduct dye studies in lakes Munson and Lafayette in Tallahassee and at sinkholes all along the Cody Scarpe – the coastal shoreline of prehistoric Florida running along the south side of town.
About a decade ago, an effort to clean up Tallahassee’s wastewater treatment facility’s spray field reduced pollution in Wakulla Springs by 62 percent, McGlynn said.
Of additional concern now are four projects along the Wakulla Spring Basin to install sewer systems in place of septic tanks. The sandy soil on the slope from Tallahassee to the coast is not ideal for septic systems, but sewer construction over underwater caverns could also be perilous to water health.
Looking at factors that cause pollution before they become permanently detrimental could help save Wakulla Springs from the fate of other springs around the state.
“There’s others where there’s pumping and many more people living there than here. They could probably never be saved, but this one can,” McGlynn said. “This is the last spring we can save in Florida.”
Contact Karl Etters at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KarlEtters on Twitter.