Non-profit’s ‘water warriors’ swimming in success
In a time when we are all starved for “good news,” Safe Water for Walton has plenty to share, and is inviting the community to help make more.
Just weeks ago, a state permit application sitting in Tallahassee was withdrawn by a Fortune 500 company. Concerns about that permit are what galvanized Safe Water for Walton into existence a few short years ago.
That’s right – for nearly three years, the group did not let up, spurred into action by citizens in Jackson County sitting at the top of our public water supply.
Left: Board Members include Capt. Hunter Ray, a fourth-generation fisherman on the Bay in Walton County; real estate investor Kelly Layman; and "super-grandmother" Beth Jackson.
CREDIT: Jacqueline Ward Images
Right: Mitzi and Jeff Archer, owners of YOLO Board, were honored at the recent Annual Membership Party hosted by Howard Group, and Hyatt Place at Grand Boulevard.
Far Right: Lee Perry, a widely respected businessman who owns Azland C&D Recycling Facility in DeFuniak Springs, was one of the first Business Members to join Safe Water for Walton.
Safe Water for Walton – comprised of retirees, parents, former state agency leaders, attorneys, community leaders, and a slew of small business owners – week after week continued to unearth facts and use experts to interpret complicated data and engineering.
The federal-state permit would have allowed Waste Management to inject “leachate” (or “garbage juice”) about 4,000 feet underground near the very top of the Central Panhandle’s regional water supply.
With about 100 freshwater springs within or near our six-county watershed, it serves as the only source of water for both utility customers and anyone on a private well. The watershed is recharged daily by the Floridan Aquifer underground, in terms of both water quality and quantity. The utilities and private wells tap into and depend on that water supply as it moves south.
The permit applicant has more than 21 million customers nationwide, and billions in assets. It runs a regional landfill in Jackson County, and said it needed a different disposal system than trucking the hazardous liquid to treatment facilities in the region, as it had for years.
With the permit application for a “deep injection well” to be drilled now withdrawn for final review by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the company has new regulatory air permits that allow it to, among other things, use an evaporator and burning system on-site. The leftover “slurry” is put back into the landfill liner on-site.
The landfill accepts municipal waste (household trash) from Walton, Okaloosa, Jackson, and other counties in Northwest Florida where it has contracts, and from other states.
“It was a long but powerful testament to the power of positive thinking, and to being factual and civil. We have to take action to protect major resources and assets of this region as we continue to grow,” said the group’s founder Kelly Layman. “We pulled in the right people to be all over this, and others stepped up. Every single one of them knew what was at stake. We’ve had other successes in the meantime, but this was our No. 1 priority and it’s a big deal to now have it resolved.”
Lee Perry, a 35-year Walton resident, has a unique perspective. He owns Azland C&D Recycling Facility in DeFuniak Springs, which helps keep construction waste out of landfills across the Florida Panhandle.
He was one of Safe Water for Walton’s first Business Members, and is now a Board member.
“There was absolutely no reason to unnecessarily risk the public water supply in a region that isn’t an urban area and wouldn’t have the resources for any future contamination crisis,” Perry said.
The group’s most recent event was a membership “thank you” event, hosted by Hyatt Place at Grand Boulevard. YOLO Board® and Gulf Power Company were honored.
A special tribute video was premiered, featuring their work with Safe Water for Walton after Hurricane Michael. It is posted on the group’s web site: www.safewaterforwalton.org
“Our entire business philosophy is centered on building community, encouraging outdoors discovery, and fostering well-being, so we have been excited about what Safe Water for Walton has accomplished in that same spirit,” Jeff Archer said.
A roll call of all Business Members ended with a special token gift for each one.
The group is still doing post-hurricane recovery assistance: www.safewaterforwalton.org/hurricane-relief
The Walton County School District was represented by South Walton High School administrators and thanked for hosting the group’s first national book author event the year before.
Guests enjoyed door prizes and a silent auction featuring generous support from Hyatt Place, The 30A Company, Insurance Zone, YOLO Board, THE REP Theater in Seaside, The Nest on 30A vacation rental, J. Conley Images, local book author Lynn Nesmith, Grayton Beer Company, Florida Boy Adventures charter fishing, and others.
The group also recently filmed Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, Jr., and Schools Superintendent Russell Hughes for an upcoming project.
A planned April 13 membership celebration at Nick’s Seafood Restaurant in Freeport featuring award-winning Georgia songwriter-fiddler Wyatt Espalin has been postponed with bigger plans involving YOLO Board.
“We are grateful to the Nick family for their active support as a Business Members, especially during our hurricane relief efforts, delivering a hot buffet meal to Holmes and Jackson County first responders,” said Layman.
To help sponsor or donate something for the party, email firstname.lastname@example.org