Approximately 45 years ago I was working up a water system estimate for a lady who was moving a mobile home into an area in southwest Alachua County. The expected water level was about 25 feet. I told her I had a one HP submersible pump that would pump as much as 1800 gallons per hour. She told me that as a child she had been a prisoner in a Nazi Germany concentration camp during World War II.
She further said the prisoners were allowed one-half liter of water per day. Since a liter is approximately the size of a quart, a half-liter is about the size of a pint. She further said that if the prisoners wanted to bathe, they had to catch as much of the wash water as they could and then drink it. So; she said she thought she could be by on 1800 GPH.
Thankfully the war ended before she and her fellow prisoners were executed.
So; we are blessed to have an almost unlimited supply of water in NC Florida. I did get the Job.
Charles Miller, secretary
As a follow-up to last months’ column on Cabot Carbon, an adjacent 90 acre property (Koppers) has also been cited for heavy pollution of soil and water. They had been in business for many years treating cross ties, power poles and fence posts with creosote and other toxic chemicals. Many of the toxins spilled onto the ground and leached into the aquifers. Beazer East now owns the property and is responsible for the clean-up. The EPA and FDEP declared the area a Superfund clean-up site in 1981.
In 2014 soil was removed from 103 neighboring houses, 7 businesses, and one school and replaced with fresh soil, including landscaping. ISGS is treating both the surficial and hawthorn aquifers. ISGS stands for In-situ geochemical stabilization.
Experts in the field are still working with Beazer East, PRP, (potentially responsible party) trying to keep the toxins from the Floridan aquifer and potentially the Murphree Wellfield, Gainesville’s only source of potable water.
Cabot Carbon Corp. was a company located
on 50 acres of land in the NW quadrant at the intersection of N. Main
St. and NE 23 Av in Gainesville, FL. They were in business from 1945
until 1965. They produced 6,000 gallons of pine tar and other
distillates from pine tree stumps per day, much of which was stored in
unlined pits. Naturally a great deal of contaminants were leaching into
the soil and aquifers.
Developer Raymond Tassinari bought the
property and drained the pits into nearby ditches, marshes and creeks.
Some of this solution eventually reached Haile Sink some 14 miles away.
In 1970 the property was sold again and a shopping center was
built. The property was declared a Superfund site and many ongoing
tests are being done. Some contaminants are still leaking into the
surficial, Hawthorn and Floridan aquifers.
Wellfield, Gainesville’s only source of water, is just 2.5 miles from
this site. So far, no contaminants have gotten that far. They test
their water every hour. Time will tell.
Lake Alice is situated on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida. It is approx. 130 acres in size and drains 60% of the university’s 2,000 acres. It is a nature lover’s paradise with many birds, alligators, soft shell turtles and many, many other forms of wildlife.
Across the street is a massive bat colony with their own bat house. They can be seen each evening about dusk as they fly out looking for insects.
Of particular interest to our group are 2 drainage wells, drilled many years ago to try and maintain a constant water level for the lake. The lake water flows by gravity directly into the Floridan Aquifer. At first the water was filtered with 1 inch poultry mesh (chicken wire). There was a sink-hole around one of the wells that someone had thrown a cross-tie into.
Back in the late 70’s or early 80’s when NCFWWA was hosting a FGWA state meeting, we had a field trip to witness the above conditions. We have a photo of Allen Hardwicke down in the sinkhole.
In recent decades some up-grades have been made and a fence has been installed as well as other improvements, but there is still a lot of lake water going into the aquifer!
THE OLOGALLA (OGALLALA) AQUIFER
The Ologalla Aquifer
is one of the largest aquifer’s in the world. It is part of the High
Plains Aquifer covering some 174,000 square miles in parts of 8 states
(South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New
Mexico, and Texas. It underlies much of the nation’s breadbasket that
grows vast quantities of corn, wheat, cattle and other crops. The
advent of the center pivot irrigation system led to massive water
withdrawals and drops in the water table of 100 to 400 feet. Much more
water is being withdrawn than is being recharged. This is called mining
water. If the aquifer is fully depleted it is estimated that it would
take 6.000 years to recharge it by natural rainfall.
says that 253,000,000 acre feet of water was withdrawn in 2005, and at
that rate the aquifer would be depleted by 2028. If the water in the
Ologalla was spread evenly over the United States it would be one foot
six inches deep.
By contrast, our own Floridan Aquifer underlies
most of the state and bits of other Southern states. It covers about
100,000 square miles and serves about 10 million people. The water
table is down some because of the extended drought, but under normal
rainfall conditions the water level is held at a nearly constant level.
ALWAYS CONSERVE WATER
ORIGINS OF THE FGWA
The following is recounted
entirely from memory. Back in the 1930’s the Florida Well Drillers
Association was in business for several years but went dormant from lack
In about 1950 a gentleman named Jim
Cousins of the Layne-Atlantic Co. in Orlando called a meeting at the
Haven Hotel in Winter Haven to resurrect the association. My father
(Albert Miller) and I attended this meeting. I was a young teenager at
the time ( I’ll soon be 80 years old). It was suggested that we needed a
treasury so a hat was passed around for donations. $97.00 was
collected. A young man who had already contributed came forward and
gave another $3.00, so the FWDA started off with an even $100.00 in the
treasury. Later the association was known as the Florida Water Well
Association ( FWWA ) and today is known as the Florida Ground Water
Association ( FGWA ).
I am proud to be a member of FGWA
and for having served on the board of directors in the mid 1970’s. I
have also been a life member FGWA for 15 years.
Charles Miller, secretary
SANTA FE RIVER
Right here in our midst in north Florida is a very unique river, the Santa Fe. Why ? Because it disappears in
a large sinkhole at Camp O'Leno State Park and reappears some 3 miles
downstream at River Rise State Park. This is all possible because of
Florida's vast Floridan Aquifer, a huge Karst rock formation that
underlies much of the state. Both Parks are open to the public and
offer a multitude of nature trails to explore. In fact, at Camp O'Leno
you can walk down one side of the river, cross over on dry solid earth,
walk back on the other side of the river, and then cross over on the
foot bridge to your starting point.
Both Parks adjoin each other and are located just North of High Springs.
Paynes Prairie State Park
Paynes Prairie is located just south of Gainesville, FL. It is a vast sinkhole prone area of 21,000 acres with the
basin consisting of 13,735 acres. It is named for King Payne, a
Seminole Indian Chief. One unique feature is the Alachua sink hole near
the northern rim where the GRU main street wastewater plant drains
effluent directly into the Floridan Aquifer. Recently a multimillion
dollar "sheet flow system" has been added.
sinkhole becomes plugged and the prairie becomes a large lake. From
1871-1891 steam- boats crossed the lake hauling produce and timber, etc.
Again in 1998 it flooded and water was over the outside lanes of
In the late 1600's the prairie was the largest cattle
ranch in Florida. It was a prime provider of beef for the Confederate
army. Many Seminole Indians lived on the rim of the prairie as
evidenced by many arrowheads that have been found. There are still wild
horses dating from the 1500's. There is also a herd of buffalo that
was re- introduced in 1975. There are more than 800 species of plants,
430 species of vertebrates, and 271 species of birds. The park is open
to the public 365 days a year. It is well worth the trip.
THE DEVIL'S MILLHOPPER
Have you ever heard of the
Devil"s Millhopper? It is a huge sinkhole located at 4732 NW Millhopper
Rd in Gainesville. It is in an area not generally know for sinkholes,
so when one does fall in, it's a whopper. It is 120 feet deep and 500
feet across. No one knows how old it is, but it may be many thousands
of years. You can hear numerous streams of water trickling down the
sides, but the hole never fills up, because they flow into the Floridian
aquifer. The water at bottom of the sink is the same as the water
table in surrounding wells. Some old timers may remember going to the
bottom to look for sharks teeth. The clay walls were slick and it was
dangerous as you had to pull yourself up by grabbing roots and vines.
Today the Millhopper is a state park. A wooden stairway has been constructed to the bottom. There are 236
steps down, and guess what, there are 236 steps back up. There is a
half mile long hiking trail around the circumference. There is a small
visitor at the entrance to the park. Admission is $2.00 each, or $4.00
for a car load. Everyone should visit the Millhopper at least once in
In 1854 a group of local citizens
met at Boulware Springs in Alachua County, Florida. The name of the
near-by community was Hogtown. They voted to change the name to
Gainesville. They also voted to move the county seat from Newnansville
to Gainesville because the railroad had laid a new railroad track there.
Boulware Springs was the source of water for the growing town.
In 1901 the city lured the University of Florida away from Lake City.
The deciding factor was free water forever. The city has since reneged
on that offer. In 1913 the city started using water from deep wells
nearer to town. They now get their water from the Murphree Well Field.
Boulware Springs is now a city park and also a state park. The
original pumping equipment is still in place. The spring water flows
into Sweetwater Branch, where it joins the effluent from the South Main
Street sewage plant and then flows into the Alachua sink in Paynes
Prairie State Park, and then directly into the Floridan aquifer.
Recently a 1300 acre sheetflow system has been created to help improve
the quality of the water being discharged into the sink. The
Gainesville to Hawthorne bike trail goes by the spring.
Accidents do happen. They happen to everyone.
However, if we think safety, accidents can be reduced. For instance,
if we get in to big a hurry, accidents are more apt to happen, whether
we are driving, at home, or on the job.
It helps to keep
equipment clean and in good repair, and to use the proper tools for the
task at hand. It also helps to keep the area free of clutter so that
you don't trip and fall. Be especially careful when working on
electrical equipment. Think twice. Leave yourself an "out".
LIFETIME MEMBER JESSIE HEARD
Jessie Heard was born Jan. 14, 1933 in Jacksons' Gap, Alabama. He has
been married to Yvonne Collins Heard for 58 years. He played in a state
championship football game while a student at Camp Hill High School in
Tallapoosa, AL. He played football for the Florida A & M Rattlers
from 1953 until 1956. After college Jessie served in the US
Army-armored division. After an honorable discharge from the army, he
played for the (then) Los Angeles Chargers of the NFL. A knee injury
ended his football career. He came to Shands in Gainesville for rehab
on his knee and ended up getting a teaching job at Lincoln High School.
He was head football coach for the Lincoln H.S. Terriers from
1961-1969, where his won-lost record was compared to the legendary Jake
Gaither of FAMU.
After Lincoln was closed, he was hired to
coach football at Buchholz High School in Gainesville from 1970-1977. A
few years ago Coach Heard was honored by having the football field
named for him. Recently he was asked to speak to the Bobcats football
team, where the gist of his message was "DO YOU BELIEVE." He has many
awards and trophies at his home.
After his coaching career ended
he was in the well drilling for a number of years. He was a proud
member of NCFWWA and he served as president in 2001-2002. Last August
16 was proclaimed as Jessie Heard Day in Gainesville. He has been
written about in many newspapers and there are plans to write a book
about his life. "WELL DONE JESSIE"
Back in 1959, Charles Miller was working for his father, Albert Miller, in the family owned drilling business. Times were hard in 1958-1959. They bid on and won a contract from the United States Geological Survey to try to find why the water levels were dropping in Lake Brooklyn and other lakes in the Keystone Heights-Starke area. They were also trying to see if there was any connection between surface water levels and ground water levels. After drilling five 4 inch wells and after much study of drill cuttings and water levels, it was determined by USGS geologists' that the change in water levels was caused by rainfall (or the lack of it). There was of course a delay in changes of ground water levels because it takes time for the water to percolate through the earth. People today are still wondering why water levels are changing. Can we second-guess Mother Nature. Does history repeat itself. Think about it!!!
SHORTAGE OF WATER IN FLORIDA
Have you been keeping up with the news about the on-going water shortage in Florida? Most of Florida sits atop the Floridan Aquifer, one of the most prolific aquifers on the face of the Earth. While it is true that there are some shortages, such as around some clusters of large irrigation or freeze protection wells, or some municipal wells, for most of the state there is no shortage. Over a billion gallons per day flow from Florida's many springs through rivers to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas would go crazy if they had the amount of water that we have. A more serious problem is pollution and salt water intrusion. Pollution comes from many sources such as farm and dairy runoff into creeks and sinkholes, etc. Properly installed septic tanks are not generally a problem. Fortunately, we in the central part of the state don't have to contend with salt water intrusion problem. The message here is: Don't waste water. Don't pollute water. Practice good conservation measures and we will have enough water for everyone.