OUR ONLY GOAL
. . . is safe water, whether that’s what you drink at your home & business, or what you enjoy in the vast outdoors.
Founded in Walton County in 2017, we are focused on threats to the entire 6-county watershed: Jackson, Holmes, Washington, Walton, Bay, and Okaloosa.
OUR ONLY ALLEGIANCE
. . . is to our Members.
We promote understanding of this region’s unique underground aquifer system and springs—and how much we depend on this system both individually and as an outdoors-driven, year-round economy. It's something our Business Members know well.
Credit: Sean Murphy
Credit: Sky Pro Imaging
Credit: Sean Murphy
WHY WAS SAFE WATER FOR WALTON FORMED?
In July 2017, the Walton County Commission was asked by a resident to look into a major threat to our drinking water supply and local waterways: a permit application filed in Tallahassee by a private company that would allow drilling through the underground fresh aquifer for a “deep injection well” in Jackson County—about 1 hour NE of DeFuniak Springs.
Its purpose? To have an approximate mile-long, uncapped well for faster disposal of landfill leachate. Leachate (“lee-chate”) is a liquid that can be highly toxic with known carcinogens and chemicals (and whatever else is in the landfill).
Typically, this liquid is heavily processed either on-site above-ground, or by off-site by regulated wastewater treatment plants that regularly handle various types of hazardous waste. The permit applicant in this case is requesting both full control of the leachate liquid, as well as its disposal. Not only would the aquifers be highly disturbed and breached in the well-drilling; the company also uses “self-inspection” and self-reported maintenance. Deep injection wells have “failed” in a similar fashion elsewhere in Florida, and around the nation, causing crisis-level contamination events. This is spelled out in stacks of documentation we obtained from the U.S. EPA.
Walton County and our neighboring counties are blessed. But we also depend on a fragile underground watershed, one truly "interconnected" for our public water supply. Whether you’re on public service utilities or have a private property water well—the threat is the same, and it is serious.
This issue—and the State review process—highlighted a lack of governmental regulatory protections strong enough to adequately protect the safety and health of the regional public water supply, and the recreational businesses that depend on all the regional waterways. But the process from July to September 2017 had a bright side: a much broader discussion started about overall water-specific issues that could impact our 6-county watershed.
Intense local and state interest grew, including ongoing media interest, eventually requiring a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization in order to engage technical experts; hold fun, meaningful events with statewide and national organizations; and accept financial donations from the community.
After extensive fundraising and membership growth, Safe Water for Walton prepared for an administrative legal challenge about the permit. After multiple delays by the applicant for a final permit review, the application itself was withdrawn in 2020.
We could not have accomplished our goals without the community's support and a long list of business and citizen leaders.
WHAT HAVE ELECTED LEADERS DONE ABOUT THE ‘DEEP INJECTION WELL’ PERMIT?
In August 2017, the elected officials in all three municipalities within Walton County—the cities of Freeport, Paxton, and DeFuniak Springs—passed unanimous resolutions opposing the “deep injection well” permit application.
In September 2017, the Board of County Commissioners of Walton County also passed a Resolution 4-0, opposing the issuance of the State permit.
In 2017, Jackson County Commissioners and the Gadsden County Commission also passed resolutions, unanimously opposing the deep injection well, as had the City of Marianna and the Town of Sneads.
WHICH ELECTED OFFICIALS STEPPED UP?
Resolution, City of Paxton
Resolution, Town of Sneads
WHAT IS SAFE WATER FOR WALTON DOING NOW?
• We have an active Legislative Watch Program, with a 100% success rate over 4 years. That's unheard of for a new non-profit involved in high-stakes governmental policy. We helped CONVINCE GOVERNOR SCOTT TO VETO House Bill 1149. This bill would have vastly expanded the uses for treated wastewater—including sewage, and possibly leachate. Then-Governor Scott also later vetoed a large "toilet-to-tap" bill later after we forwarded national research and were one of a handful of groups across the state to submit written opposition.
• Our membership parties are fun—check out News & Events.
• We brought OPERATION MEDICINE CABINET, a national movement with State of Florida grant support from SWIX to three locations in Walton County with support from the Walton County School District, Walton County Sheriff's Office, and many others. We set a statewide record in 2019.
• We support local efforts with special fundraisers, like when we brought a TEDx speaker and best-selling author on water conservation to Walton County, an event free to members. Book sales proceeds continue to benefit South Walton High School Environmental Club, the only such group at an area high school. You can support this effort at www.safewaterforwalton.org/shop at Book Sales.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Glad you asked!
• If you paddleboard, kayak, canoe, fish, boat, swim, play, or drink and bathe in Walton waters, join us.
• If your farm animals depend on your private well, join us.
• If your business depends on visitors who come enjoy our vast waterways, join us.
You only join once! If you care about the safety and abundance of water in Walton County, click here.