At the February 9, 2016 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, Environmental Services Director Susan Goebel-Canning answered questions relating to Pasco County’s proposed mine which would be located just south of County Line Road (about 5.5 miles north of S.R. 52) and how aquifer water quality in the Weeki Wachee spring shed area might become affected.
Commission Chair Jim Adkins stated the commission has received what he described as a “tremendous amount” of emails from the citizens on this issue. Ms. Goebel-Canning explained that the Southwest Florida Management District (SWFMD), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and both Hernando and Pasco Counties have expressed concern about the proposed mine.
Seven Diamonds LLC submitted a narrative along with their permit application to Pasco county in May of 2015. In it they state they intend to mine sand and limerock. Excavating limerock produces greater cause for concern than sand. In order to mine limerock, the clay layer below the sand would have to be removed, and once the limerock is excavated, the aquifer is exposed. Since water in the aquifer flows toward Weeki Wachee Springs to the northwest, mining could affect water quality for the area.
President of Seven Diamonds LLC is Lew Friedland. Daniel Aldridge serves as Vice President. Freidland and Aldridge are also President and Vice President respectively for Adam Smith Enterprises, the major developer of Trinity. Friedland currently serves on the Pasco Economic Development Council.
There is an existing mine immediately south of the proposed location of Seven Diamonds called Lago Verde. The Pasco Board of County Commissioners initially denied the request to expand the sand mine for limerock mining in 2012. The developer, Outlaw Ridge Inc, sought mediation and Pasco County settled for a non-extendable 15 year mining permit, with Outlaw Ridge maintaining a $510,000 escrow account for any damages caused by the limerock mining. It also requires that the site become a park, open space or residential area following the mining operation. Homeowners in the area immediately filed a lawsuit against the county for agreeing to the settlement, claiming that the mine is not compatible with approved development.
At the March 8th BOCC meeting, Ms. Goebel-Canning suggested sending letters to Pasco County, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), and the Department of Environmental Protection describing the potentially damaging effects on the aquifer and drinking water. The letters also request that Hernando County receive notification of any meetings about the mine.
Commissioner Jeff Holcomb felt that sending the letters at this time would be premature since the applicant has not appeared before the Pasco BOCC. He stated that he received a call from a representative of the applicant, Seven Diamonds Mine, LLC who offered to appear before the Hernando County BOCC to answer questions and concerns. Commissioner Holcomb stated that a geologist in Hernando County has reviewed information about the project but the geologist called the concerns “ludicrous”. Ms. Goebel-Canning stated the project seems to be at a standstill at this time with no particular timeline.
Commissioners Diane Rowden and Nick Nicholson agreed that sending a letter to Pasco County and other agencies would be appropriate to show that Hernando County is opposed to any detrimental effects to the spring and groundwater. Commissioner Wayne Dukes wanted a letter to answer specific issues rather than resort to speculation and rumors.
During public comment, one resident stated that Hernando County needed to act more quickly as the issue is on the agenda for the Development Review Committee (DRC) on March 31, then before the Planning and Zoning Committee on April 12 and the Pasco County BOCC on April 26.
Ms. Goebel-Canning will extend an invitation for the applicants to appear before the BOCC on March 22 to answer questions from the commissioners. The Hernando County staff will attend any meetings once the mine project appears on the commission's agenda in Pasco County. The Hernando commissioners agreed to Ms. Goebel-Canning's suggestion of sending a letter to her counterpart in Pasco County expressing concern and asking to be advised of any upcoming meetings.
The address given on the applicant's permit narrative is 16303 US Hwy 41 Spring Hill, FL.