Make statements of fact that aren’t and then publish them as if they are. It’s a time worn but sometimes useful tactic, like when applying for a water use permit the public hates.
It’s designed to counter those unintelligent nitwits who have the gall to suggest your permit is going to do things your consultants know will happen but which if you admit to publically will surely result in a denied permit.
So instead of saying, for example, that your requested permit to pump 13.2 million gallons every day from the ground (more than the amount pumped by the entire City of Ocala!) will cause a reduction in flow of 5 million gallons per day from Florida’s internationally famous Silver Springs, you say, oh phooey, it’s not going to have any impact at all.
It’s not called lying. It’s called spin, and Adena Springs Ranch lawyer Ed de la Parte stretched the difference between truth and non-truth to the cellular thickness of an onion skin when he said in his letter-to-the-editor published May 20 in the Gainesville Sun, “The results of the model are that the proposed withdrawal will have virtually no impact on Silver Springs, other natural springs, lakes and private wells.”
Come on, Eddie, really? That’s ridiculous even for a lawyer getting paid to advocate on behalf of his client’s interests. Like I said, the “skin” of an onion between each peel is only one cell thick.
And what’s more, if the consultants for a water permit applicant can’t depend upon the facts to be pursuasive I guess they can buy space in the local media and blast public sensibilities with statements designed to foster factless emotional judgements instead. This is what billionaire Canadian Frank Stronach is doing to get a water permit that if granted will most certainly have, as surely as Ed de la Parte is a very smart lawyer, an impact upon Silver Springs.
Stronach is now buying full paid advertisements in the local media to convince the public that all is well and pumping 13.2 million gallons per day from Silver Springs’ sensitive source-aquifer will have no impact upon the springs’ already stressed mean annual flows.
Dr. Robert L. Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, has written a letter, published here with his permission, that sheds important factual light upon some of the spin being spun around the Adena Springs Ranch permit application.
The Gainesville Sun titled Dr. Knight’s letter:
“Adena Springs Ranch in the Court of Public Opinion”
Dr. Robert L. Knight
When was the last time you saw a two-page ad in the Gainesville Sun? Probably not that long ago. It was bought by another billion dollar company. BP Oil has spent millions trying to convince us that the Gulf of Mexico was not harmed by more than 206 million gallons of crude oil from their Deep Water Horizon drilling platform. Now a lawyer working for Adena Springs Ranch, thinks a 2-page newspaper ad will convince the public that he can pump more than 13 million gallons per day (4.8 billion gallons per year) from the aquifer and cause no harmful effects on groundwater levels or flows at nearby Silver Springs.
Adena’s consultants estimated that the aquifer drawdown due to their 134 wells would not be measurable at nearby Silver Springs. What they don’t reveal is that a groundwater decline of about 0.1 foot at Silver Springs equates to a flow decline of more than 5 million gallons per day. This reduction is more than the entire flow of Green Cove Springs, a second magnitude spring on the St. Johns River. It is neither trivial nor unmeasurable. This is about 4 percent of the entire flow of Silver Springs during the recent drought. At this rate it would only take 26 similar groundwater consumptive use permits to legally take all of the flow out of Silver Springs during the next drought.
By the way, there are already over 2,500 active groundwater permits in Marion, Lake, Sumter, Alachua, and Putnam Counties, the area that includes and immediately surrounds the groundwater basin feeding Silver Springs. These existing permits authorize the collective removal of 363 million gallons per day from the Floridan Aquifer, equal to 74 percent of the historic flow at Silver Springs. No wonder one environmental advocate recently warned that Silver Springs may dry up if the St. Johns River Water Management District continues to issue permits like the one Adena has requested.
Adena’s ad also stated that the 10,000 acres of irrigated and fertilized pasture will not increase the existing nitrogen pollution in the groundwater that feeds Silver Springs. In 2006, District scientists reported that agricultural/pasture areas contributed an average of 48 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year to Silver Springs. Given the size of Adena’s proposed cattle operation, the District’s analysis indicates that more than 240 tons of additional nitrate will reach Silver Springs each year, a 50 percent increase over the existing nitrate load.
This is not surprising since 15,000 cows produce nitrogen waste equivalent to 165,000 people. None of this cow urine and manure will receive treatment, it will be spread on irrigated pastures where a large portion will inevitably seep into the aquifer. Florida regulators recently mandated a 79 percent nitrate load reduction for Silver Springs. Meeting this target will cost local utilities such as the City of Ocala millions of dollars to implement. Adena’s ad assures us that they will prepare a “certified nutrient management plan” similar to plans used to manage water quality in the Everglades. What Adena’s ad fails to mention is that over 2 billion tax-payer dollars has already been spent to clean up pollution from farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Less water and more pollution in Marion County’s groundwater and springs are not in the public interest.
And there are other misleading statements in Adena’s advertisement. For example:
Adena claims that sinkholes and karst geology are “just not an issue”. This statement is false. The whole area is mapped by the Florida Geological Survey as “more vulnerable” to groundwater contamination from the land surface, and there are karst features and relic sinkholes on the property.
In the current Adena proposal, there is no control mechanism to capture and treat surface runoff from the site flowing to wetlands, creeks, and the adjacent Ocklawaha River, an Outstanding Florida Water. Nutrients carried by this runoff are likely to be significant during summer downpours and tropical storms.
Adena says that reduced flows in the Silver River have re-appeared as increased flows in the Ocklawaha and Rainbow Rivers. This is false. The average flow in all three of these rivers has been steadily declining, providing strong evidence that flow declines are regional and are being caused by a combination of low rainfall and excessive groundwater pumping.
If you want science, take a look at the District’s 50-Year Retrospective Study of Silver Springs http://www.floridaswater.com/technicalreports/pdfs/SP/SJ2007-SP4.pdf. Don’t look for real science in a paid advertisement from a high-priced water attorney working for a Canadian billionaire. If Frank Stronach was sincere when he gave his pledge to “have no negative effect on the environment”, then he needs to visit Silver Springs and listen to the public’s opinion.
Spin is quickly unwound by the light of truth and Dr. Knight shines it brightly on the Adena Springs Ranch application for a water permit.