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Water woes discussion falls down a well

A proposal to bottle water from a mysterious well in a Winter Springs neighborhood sidetracked a discussion to fix a broken reclaimed-water pumping facility Monday night.

Residents of the Parkstone neighborhood, which lies just west of Winter Springs’ Lake Jesup reclaimed water plant, were on hand at the City Commission meeting to see what to do with water that’s been flowing out of the ground in their neighborhood for years.

Residents and city officials said it could either be an abandoned artesian well for agricultural uses or just a crack in the ground from which water continuously flows.

“This is something that we don’t know what we have,” Mayor Kevin McCann said. “We’re simply voting on authorizing the funds to do a deep research to help the residents of Parkstone to understand what they have and to possibly spend taxpayer money to help them.”

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That vote could spend an estimated $31,000 bringing in experts to determine the exact source of the water, the content and cleanliness of the water, and whether it could be capped and piped without damaging houses in the neighborhood.

But for some residents, selling the water was already on their minds. At one point a resident proposed selling water directly to the city, or another city nearby.

Bob Sibley, secretary and former president of the Parkstone Homeowners’ Association, said the well flows more than 300 million gallons of water into Lake Jesup every year.

“We’d be willing to sell our water to the city of Winter Springs, but for 10 years no one has agreed to even talk legitimately about buying our water,” he said.

City Manager Shawn Boyle said that an independent well expert said he believed the well head was likely buried when the land was bulldozed to construct the neighborhood.

“It would be extraordinary for one utility to allow another utility to lay their lines down over the top of ours to access a resource in the heart of our own city,” Boyle said. “In other words, it’s very improbable for that to occur.”

City officials had been meeting with Parkstone residents and the neighborhood’s homeowners’ association board to decide how to proceed with studying the water source, but were met with hesitancy about bringing in engineers.

“It’s puzzling to me now, suddenly, Parkstone doesn’t want it,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Cannon said. “We’re getting ready to pay $31,000 to have a scientific study done and they’re balking at giving those engineers access to do a study. I would hope that they would grant us that access so that we can evaluate to see if this is water that can be used.”

The discussion was part of a multi-part study proposed to determine how to fix the city’s ailing reclaimed water facility on the southern edge of Lake Jesup in Central Winds Park. That study would also determine whether water from Parkstone could be used to help make up for the city’s dwindling permitted water use limit, controlled by the St. Johns River Water Management District. The study would cost an estimated $127,000.

“Even if the city walks away, at least they’re that much closer to an answer at the end of the day,” Boyle said of the Parkstone water source.

The proposed study passed unanimously.

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