WAKULLA SPRINGS, FLORIDA — Plans to build a gas station complex directly over Chip’s Hole Cave, a blue-water source leading directly to Wakulla Springs, has local residents up in arms.
Wakulla Springs is one of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs. Its sapphire waters are home to manatees, alligators and other wildlife – a popular tourist destination for a century.
Now, Southwest Georgia Oil Company wants to build a large 16-pump gas station complex with a car wash and convenience store over a sensitive water source – a cave below the ground that feeds the springs with fresh water.
“If you drop a ping pong ball in this cave, it will pop up in Wakulla Springs eight days later,” says retired Wakulla Springs park manager Pete Scalco, who is part of the coalition fighting the project.
“Now they want to put a giant gas tank right on top of it. Nobody knows how stable this cave is. Would all that weight create a sinkhole? Could it collapse after a huge underground fuel tank is installed? Nobody knows,” he says, adding that if any of those things would happen, it would be the end of the Wakulla Springs ecosystem.
“This might be the most serious threat to Wakulla Springs in its thousands of years of existence,” Scalco says.
According to Gil Damon, a former Wakulla boat captain, the county commissioners are trying to push through rezoning of the area so that Southwest Georgia Oil Company can receive a permit to build.
“Wakulla commissioners have inexplicably silenced public input on this. More than 100 opponents came to the last board meeting in support of a citizen-drafted ordinance to protect the groundwater cave. But many were denied the opportunity to share their view when no commissioners would even second a motion to allow discussion,” Damon tells The Florida Standard.
A public hearing is scheduled for this afternoon, Monday at 5 pm at the County Commission Chambers, 29 Arran Road in Crawfordville.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection’s database, there are over 7,000 contaminated sites in the state where leaking storage tanks and other equipment have caused damage to the environment.