Florida has the largest concentration of fresh water springs on Earth. And, as most of you know, the news coming out of our springs is not good. Years of sewage, fertilizer and manure runoff are tipping the biological apple cart, bringing outbreaks of algae and “No Swimming” signs on springs that have been flowing gin-clear for hundreds of years.
Now here’s a crazy story that we absolutely are not making up. Disney is building a fake Florida spring for the world to see in its Orlando amusement park. They even wrote an imaginary history for the make-believe town, called “Disney Springs”:
“Our story starts very much like waterfront towns all over Florida. There was a little green field, there was a natural spring that was found and then these settlers, in the mid-1800s, started building cabins, just what you would find throughout the history of Florida. And over time, that little settlement grew into a full size town and that’s how Disney Springs was born, and it’s as much a story about the history of Florida as it is a Disney story … and Disney Springs really leverages that story and says, ‘Well what if there were a beautiful, natural springs that a whole town was built on, and then over time that town was converted into a retail, dining and entertainment venue that’s something that the world hasn’t seen before?’”
That’s the “storyline” behind the Disney Springs attraction, as described in a video by Disney Imagineering Executive Creative Director Theron Skees.
We’re pretty much speechless here at Earthjustice’s Florida office. We’ve been in court for over 15 years trying to get leaders to put limits on the pollution that’s wrecking these springs—our drinking water—and who knew, we could have just waited for a giant corporation like Disney to just build us a new environment!
You’ll have to wait awhile to see Disney Springs. It’s still in the planning stages.
As far as real Florida springs in real Florida towns? We’re in court on behalf of a citizens’ group to protect the Ichetucknee River, which is fed by an amazing giant real spring near the very real town of Fort White, Florida.
Among other things, Florida allowed a giant limestone mining operation and industrial cement plant near Ichetucknee Spring. Florida has issued permits so that international bottling companies can suck water out of our aquifer and sell it. And the government is issuing permits for international corporations to do large-scale, industrial agricultural operations in the spring shed, one of the worst possible land uses you could have on top of the aquifer in that region, which is filled with caves and springs and sinkholes, sort of like a stony sponge.
The citizens we represent point out that the state’s proposed “minimum flows” rules don’t take into account the massive amount of pumping that’s gone on in the region. Let’s say we have a jug of water that’s two-thirds empty already. The state’s proposed rules start by divvying up the water that’s left in the bottom third of the jug without recognizing that the whole jug needs to be filled back to the top before we start giving out more permits to use the water. We’re arguing the case in Florida administrative court, and we’ll keep you updated about our progress.
One thing I’ll say about Disney—at least Disney is honest about its fakery.
The real make-believe is coming out of our Florida government, which pretends to care about the devastation of our springs but vehemently refuses to take two common-sense steps: set real limits on groundwater pumping and on the pollution running into our springs.