Non-profit releases WALTON COUNTY COMMISSION CANDIDATE Q&A—focused on ‘biggest threat to our regional water supply in its history’

Dear Neighbors:

 

Safe Water for Walton, Inc., was incorporated in 2017 and is a 501(c)(4) organization.  It follows the same requirements from the IRS and the State of Florida mandated for any non-profit.  The “(c)(4)” designation, however, means Safe Water for Walton can legally advocate on public policy issues, and take positions.  Why did very busy people rally together to form a brand-new structured group that requires serious time and resources?  The serious reasons are highlighted in the Candidate Q&A, and can be found on our web site. 

 

Just months ago, in April, we launched a Membership & Corporate Sponsorships program, along with a web site.  The results were incredible: You care about water!  You know it is a finite commodity that we have been taking for granted in the Central Panhandle region.  It’s time for a spotlight on regional “safe water.”  

 

The organization’s Board and Advisory Council have voted not to endorse in 2018.  Instead, we are offering information that helps voters—and candidates—better understand what we consider to be the biggest threat to our regional water supply in its history.  Those running to serve as Walton County Commissioners were asked about a particular issue—the same one that galvanized this organization into existence: We are actively opposing a pending State-level permit application for a “Deep Injection Well,” to dispose of treated landfill "leachate" underground.  See the Q&A for details.

 

We urge you to become a member of Safe Water for Walton if you don’t want to see this State permit approved. Join Now. 

 

Finally, we have a lot more going on to increase your quality of life and protect local property values than “just” preventing a potential public water supply contamination crisis.  Back in March, Members and Event Sponsors helped launched “Operation Medicine Cabinet”—this added Walton County to the rolls of a national movement!  These fun, free, secured events collect Rx pharmaceuticals and medicines of all types.  That keeps hazardous waste out of our water supply chain.  (Please don't flush these down drains. Pharmaceutical compounds are not screened nor regulated the same way as other pollutants and chemicals in your drinking water.)  Stay tuned!  We'll announce 2019 collection dates this fall with our Sponsors.  

 

If you found this Candidate Q&A helpful, then join us.  Or make a donation.  

 

#neighborshelpingneighbors — #lifelibertysafewaterforAll — #VOTE

NOTES: Candidates were given 9 days to complete and return the questionnaire by email. Write-in candidate (District 2) Barbara Brooke did not respond. Write-in candidate (District 4) Michael Burke does not have an email on file with Supervisor of Elections. All responses shown are in full, and exactly as returned in each candidate's answers, with 1 exception, as noted. Candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot August 28.

Danny Glidewell

District 2 Candidate

Cecilia Jones

District 2 Incumbent

Bill Fletcher

District 4 Candidate

Trey Nick

District 4 Candidate

Questions 1-6 focus on a State regulatory permit application, asking to construct a "deep injection well" at a privately run landfill in Jackson County.  The “exploratory drilling permit" would pave the way for issuance of a full permit—to drill approx. 1 mile underground, and through this region's natural water aquifers underground.  The "deep injection well” would dispose of treated hazardous waste called landfill “leachate.”  Leachate, in raw form, is a dangerous liquid collected from thick liners required to be at the bottom of landfills.  Leachate is caused by rain over a landfill, and heat condensation, and the presence of solid waste material (or landfill waste) which “leaches” chemicals or constituents.  In some cases, leachate has two dozen or more known carcinogens, heavy metals, and other pollutants, all of which are a major public health risk to humans—and to wildlife and the environment.  It is well-documented that deep injection wells across the nation are failing, thus creating preventable public health emergencies by polluting the public water supply underground.  Our unique Floridan Aquifer underground system literally "feeds" a vast area of our drinking water sources and recreational waterways.

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Safe Water for Walton believes that:

  1. The geology, geography, hydrology, and sensitivity (water tables) of the interconnected 6 immediate counties in our regional watershed constitute enough cause for concern about the health and long-term sustainability of the Floridan Aquifer, a publicly owned resource; 

  2. A “deep injection well” next to the Choctawhatchee River & Bay watershed area could greatly endanger the quality of life and property values for millions of people, as its proposed location is literally surrounded by a list of documented natural freshwater springs; 

  3. Some of these very same majestic natural freshwater springs are open to local residents and visitors, and are managed as recreational sites by local governments and/or the State of Florida for safe, public enjoyment; and 

  4. A “deep injection well” near a vast 6-county watershed can seriously endanger dependable water supply for citizens, businesses, utilities, and private well owners all while stunting economic growth.

1: Are you in full support of the Walton County Commission Resolution passed in 2017?  

Danny Glidewell

Yes

Cecilia Jones

Yes

Bill Fletcher

Yes

Trey Nick

Yes

2: What would you like to see happen with this issue and the permit application—and when?

Danny Glidewell

I would like to see the permit denied immediately and I would like to make sure Walton County has an ironclad ordinance prohibiting any such well from being located anywhere in Walton County from now on.

Cecilia Jones

I would like to see the application pulled and the request rescinded by the applicant and/or DEP deny the permit application.  In either case, it would like to see immediate action taken.  Realizing that dealing with the landfill leachate is a current and ongoing issue, I would like to see Waste Management to look for more state of the art and cutting edge solutions to this disposal problem.  In doing so, assuring the public that the material is being handled in the most responsible and safe manner to protect our water sources and our environment as a whole. 

Bill Fletcher

I would like to see it withdrawn immediately.

Trey Nick

I support Walton County’s resolution in opposition to the Deep Injection Well in Jackson County. I encourage the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to deny this permit as soon as possible. I also hope that the applicants for this permit will recognize the strength of public opposition to the application, and will permanently withdrawal the permit request and publicly announce that they will not move forward with this or similar projects.

3: How many private water wells do you believe could be impacted by a failure of the Deep Injection Well, and what would be Walton County’s response if that occurred?  

Danny Glidewell

Every private well in Walton, as well as the other counties served by the Floridan Aquifer would be impacted.  Thousands of these as well as the municipal water systems in the county would be affected negatively.  Such a disaster would devastate our economy.  The best response is to make sure it can never happen by outlawing such wells.

Cecilia Jones

I am not sure of the number, but if even one was impacted it would be too many. In any instance where a Deep Injection Well, or any other contaminate source, as a Walton County Commissioner I would assign liability to the owner of the well for any and all of its impacts.

Bill Fletcher

I don't have a clue; suspect it would affect all of them. I don't think we should have to respond, we need to stop it. 

Trey Nick

According to the Northwest Florida Water Management District, there are approximately 16,000 wells or well permits in Walton County, ranging from several dozen feet deep to several hundred feet deep. The failure of a Deep Injection Well could have a negative impact on many, if not all, of these wells. In the case of such a failure, Walton County would need to work closely and immediately with state and federal agencies, such as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, and perhaps the Army Corps of Engineers or other agencies, to remediate the situation. There is no question that this would have a devastating impact on our environment, water quality, and economy.

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4: Do you believe you have a working knowledge of the toxicity and potential public health issues related to landfill “leachate”?  Do you believe the region at large understands that this would be the first-ever Deep Injection Well for treated landfill “leachate” anywhere in the Central Panhandle?  What sources would you rely on in making decisions for the community's future if this permit is approved?

Danny Glidewell

I have learned a great deal about this issue in the months since it first came to our attention.  While much has been achieved in educating the public in that timeframe, there is still much work to be done as many of our people still have not become aware of the issue.  In the event such a permit was approved I would look to the DEP, the NWF Water Management District and Safe Water For Walton to provide us information.

Cecilia Jones

While my knowledge of the particulars of toxicity and public health issues specifically related to landfill leachate may be limited, I do understand the dangers of improperly managing and disposing of this material.  I also understand the importance of protecting and maintaining the public’s health, safety and welfare. Other than media coverage and organizations such as yours, I don’t believe that there have been many efforts to inform the public of this or other similar initiatives in the Florida Panhandle.  If this permit is considered and possibly approved, I will utilize all resources available including EPA, FDEP, NWFL Water Management and County environmental staff to educate myself on the process and use all possible means to demonstrate my opposition related to this project.

Bill Fletcher

Having run one of the largest coal combustion by-product disposal and marketing companies in the US and building landfills with triple liners and monitoring the leachates, I suspect I have knowledge above the average person. I believe Safe Water for Walton has made great strides in raising awarness. Right now, it appears Safe Water for Walton is carrying that torch, but we need to petition the Florida DEP to monitor and keep the public informed.

Trey Nick

I am a commercial fisherman. In addition to this business, I also run a restaurant and three fishing tournaments. As a result of this work, I spend a lot of time on the water. I have seen, firsthand, how water quality in the Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico impacts our ecosystem. Sustainability is vitally important to me as commissioner, one of my primary goals will be to preserve the bay. To do this, we need to improve water quality by converting existing septic systems to water and sewer, better manage storm water and drainage issues, and work more closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In regards to leachate, I believe I understand the issue and the dangers posed by leachate, especially in a Deep Injection Well. Safe Water for Walton has done an exemplary job of educating the public about these risks, and I will rely on this organization, as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in researching the issue in the future. The public must continue to learn more about these issues, because they are important to our county’s environmental and economic future.

5: Have you spoken about this permit application in your campaign as a priority issue?  What has been the public’s reaction? 

Danny Glidewell

I have spoken about this issue and have featured it in my advertising.  The response is almost universally opposed as well as shocked that such a project would even be considered.

Cecilia Jones

While this permit application has not been a high priority during my campaign, I have not shied away from it when it has been discussed.  As I continue to serve as Commissioner, I will monitor the status of this permit and commit resources as needed.

Bill Fletcher

I have and most people are unaware and are concerned when they learn the facts.

Trey Nick

From the first day of my campaign, water quality – especially as it impacts our bay – has been one of the five key components of my platform. As I have learned more about the Deep Injection Well issue, and talked with experts, I have spoken about the imminent need to stop this permit and this project from ever being completed.

6: If the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection approves this permit, what is your specific position on providing resources from Walton County to join any legal action taken by neighboring counties—and/or by Walton County directly—to challenge the State permit (through the normal State-level process laid out for permit challenges)? 

Danny Glidewell

I would support using our legal team to appeal any adverse decision and would support joining with our neighbors to oppose any well.  I would support using any means available to fight such a well in our area.

Cecilia Jones

I have and continue to commit to objecting to this permit.  In the event it is approved, I will monitor the process and use whatever means are available to insure the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Walton County.  This is a unique situation that requires constant scrutiny in order to be prepared with the appropriate response at the appropriate time.

Bill Fletcher

We must allocate whatever resources and funds necessary to challenge and obviate the permit. 

Trey Nick

If the permit is approved, Walton County and other neighboring counties should enter into litigation to place an injunction to stop the project until the case can be heard in court. The county has an existing budget for litigation and this type of action would fall well within the guidelines for appropriate county legal intervention. The most important step would be securing the injunction.

7: Apart from the Deep Injection Well for leachate disposal, please select and discuss one other top priority for Walton County related to water issues—and what, very specifically, do you plan to do related to that issue?  

Danny Glidewell

Our number one issue in Walton County relating to water is the health of Choctawhatchee Bay.  Water quality has been declining for years and little has been done to improve it.  We need to work with Freeport to make sewer available on the entire north shore and bring septic systems off line.  We need to make sure that stormwater from around the bay is properly disposed of and that polluted stormwater is not entering the bay.  Finally, we need to work with our neighbors to the north to limit pollution entering the river which has an adverse effect on the bay.

Cecilia Jones

Safe drinking water is a vital component to life.  As a Commissioner insuring the availability of safe drinking water to the citizens of Walton County is part of my responsibility.  I will work tirelessly for those things which enhance safe drinking water and vigorously against those things which may negatively impact drinking for all of Walton County. Of specific concern is the water quality of the Choctawhatchee Bay. It has been proven that septic tanks in close proximity to water bodies and their tributaries pose a significant threat to the quality of water within them. As a Commissioner, I have led the effort to acquire RESTORE and Triumph funds to convert septic tanks in these areas to municipal sewer.

Bill Fletcher

The Customary Use issue can have a devastating impact on our economy and undermine our ability to address so many other problems we face. My position follows: [Safe Water for Walton would refer those interested in this position to see the candidate's web site or social media. The length of this answer went over the 100 words or less requested.]

Trey Nick

As previously mentioned, we must preserve the water in the Choctawhatchee Bay. To do this, I support switching from septic tanks to water and sewer and providing county resources to accelerate this project. We must also develop a more comprehensive plan to manage storm water runoff, restore shoreline grasses, and increase water quality testing and monitoring. 

Safe Water for Walton, Inc., is a non-profit advocacy and education organization properly registered with the State of Florida and the IRS.