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Monday, June 17, 2024

Group meets for local input on water quality

Lake Wauburg is known for its scenic views and recreational activities. Now, a group is working to keep it that way.

The Orange Creek Basin Working Group, which includes representatives of UF, the city of Gainesville, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and various other environmental and community organizations, will hold a public meeting today addressing concerns about water quality.

Students and community members are invited to voice their opinions at the meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Alachua County Health Department building.

Members of the group are hoping to gain local input and strategy to address the maximum amount of an impairing substance or stressor that can assimilate in Lake Wauburg and other lakes in the Orange Creek Basin, said Mary Paulic, an environmental consultant for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The Orange Creek Basin encompasses lakes primarily in Alachua County, states the St. John's River Water Management District Web site.

The meeting will address the impact of septic tanks and human activity on the lake, said Gus Olmos, supervisor of the Water Quality Protection Program in Alachua County.

The Alachua County Health Department has been testing septic tanks around Lake Wauburg to ensure they are up to proper code.

If septic tanks are not dug deep enough into the ground or are too close, they could be leaking pollutants into the lake.

Although humans do affect the quality of Lake Wauburg, high levels of natural nutrients already exist because of the Hawthorne Formation, a deep layer of soils containing fossils that is located under Lake Wauburg, said Eric Schulz, the regional coordinator of Lakewatch, a statewide volunteer water quality monitoring program.

However, the group's goal is to be proactive about the situation even if the causes of the high-nutrient levels cannot be distinguished between natural or human sources, Paulic said.

"It is important to know where the pollutants are coming from, but we're more concerned with fixing what we know we can," said Gina Hawkins, public education specialist of Gainesville Public Works Department.

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