High Level of Nitrates Found in Jackson Blue Spring

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Marianna- Earlier this December, the Department of Environmental Protection released an extensive study on the total maximum daily loads (TMDL) of pollutants found in Jackson Blue Spring and Merritts Mill Pond. The report revealed the areas contained ten times the recommended level of nitrate.

"Rainfall is .17mg/L to .30mg/L and they want us to get it to .35mg/L. Right now its about 3.5mg/L to 3.6mg/L" explained Jackson County Parks and Recycling Director, Chuck Hatcher.

Nitrates are often found in fertilizers, so in farming communities like Jackson County, it's not uncommon for nitrates to make their way into the water through runoff.

"The average age of the water is 15 to 16- 17 years old. Some of it's from last week, some of the water's from 25- 30 years ago. But the average is about 15 to 17 years, so we're looking at activities that were happening back in 94-95 era" Hatcher said.

The DEP gave the county five years to develop a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) aimed at lowering the level.

"The farmers in this spring shed, a majority of them are using best management practices already. Farmers never do anything to hurt the land because it will hurt them the next year. They're some of the best conversationalists we have" he told us.

For years Blue Spring has been a primary source of drinking water for the area. Even so, Hatcher said citizens did not need to be alarmed.

"It's just a concern for the algae growth that will happen if we don't continue to reduce the nitrates" he explained. "Blue Spring is a great recreational area, the water is very safe. It's some of the cleanest water you can swim in, and we do monitor it. The health department monitors it for water standards."

But, solving the problem won't be a quick fix. Hatcher said DEP experts estimated it could take decades to lower the level to the .35mg/L range.

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