The Palm Beach County Commission approved zoning for up to 90 wind turbines (over 500-feet tall) in the Everglades Agricultural Area, even though this location would put migratory birds and bats at risk. Environmental groups suggested we carefully study the impacts. Why rush these zoning changes?
The same is true of rock mining. We have asked for a comprehensive study of rock mining damage, but the county says they can’t afford a study. Yet, county officials ignore existing science showing damage to aquifers in other counties. Two scientists at the Everglades Foundation prepared a study demonstrating that rock mines can contaminate ground water. The county has ignored the study. The current L-8 reservoir shows chloride contamination. Chloride contamination comes when rock mines expose ancient deposits of briny water. The deeper the rock mine, the greater the risk.
The county ignores its own rules, permitting actions that it should be denying. County rules say rock mines should not be allowed to be mined below 15 feet. Yet county staff permitted mines to go deeper. The comprehensive plan requires that rock from mines be restricted to three uses: roads, environmental restoration or agricultural. The county did not enforce the rule and lost to the Sierra Club and 1000 Friends of Florida when challenged in court. Why have rules if they are not enforced?
We ask the county to base its decisions on science. If the county can’t afford to pay for the scientific research to make the proper decisions, then don’t move forward with decisions that may do irreparable environmental damage.
Drew Martin is conservation chair of the Loxahatchee Group, Sierra Club, in Lake Worth.