Dairy farms aren't the culprit


Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
In a May 26 letter, William A. Smith suggests that dairy farms are the main source of nitrates for groundwater feeding the Ichetucknee River. While dairy farms have been identified as a major nitrate source in several Suwannee River basin springs, Smith is incorrect to blame dairies for the nitrates at Ichetucknee.
The Ichetucknee basin does not contain any major dairy farms, and pollutant studies indicate that lawn fertilizers and human wastewater (whether from septic tanks or the Lake City sewage treatment plant) serve as Ichetucknee's nitrate sources.
Johnny Dame's suggestions in his May 21 column were correct: saving Ichetucknee requires that all citizens living in the Ichetucknee basin take action to minimize their impact on the environment. Steps such as the retrofit of wastewater treatment plants, replacement of failing septic tanks, purchase of sensitive lands, and better nutrient management in agricultural operations are all being pursued diligently by concerned officials and citizens.
However, the most immediate action anyone can take to minimize their personal impact on springs is to greatly reduce usage of lawn fertilizers.
Reconsideration and adjustment of water lettuce eradication policies could also have benefits for the Ichetucknee. The fast growth of water lettuce is itself a symptom of nitrate contamination, but the proliferation of algae often observed after the manual eradication of water lettuce at Ichetucknee suggests that this management strategy may have the effect of trading one pollution symptom for another.
Until we are successful in reducing the nutrients coming from the springs, our best hope for saving the Ichetucknee may be to start viewing water lettuce as an ally against algae and nitrates.
Jason Evans, Micanopy

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