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Protect our fragile aquifers from oil spill before too late

By Sandy H. Straus and Larry Straus
Posted June 20, 2010

The BP oil disaster sheds light on the fragility of our ecosystem. While BP pursues methods of controlling the leak, the potential for the oil to reach the shores of the Florida coasts and, through the Gulf Stream current, the entire Eastern Seaboard, continues to escalate. Millions of lives remain at risk of toxicity if the oil and dispersants seep into the groundwater and aquifers.

An aquifer is a water-bearing layer of rock, sediment or soil. While Florida is best known for its sunshine and beaches, its Floridan aquifer system is, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the most productive aquifers in the world. The Floridan aquifer system and Biscayne aquifer are among only a few carbonate-rock aquifers in the United States. These aquifers supply drinking water to millions every day.

Yet, these massive carbonate rock aquifers are also most fragile and vulnerable. The Biscayne aquifer is surficial that is, a shallow aquifer located close to the surface. Studies also define the Biscayne aquifer as, uniquely, an unconfined coastal aquifer that joins with the floor of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Such features provide easy pathways for contaminants to flow due to the possibilities of saltwater intrusions and surface contaminations.

Unbelievably, the sources for numerous bottled waters available commercially in Florida as an option to tap water appear to be wells within close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.

While it may be too late to protect the shores, city, county, state and federal governments now need to assure the public that aquifers in Florida and everywhere along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico are adequately protected from the BP oil spill and other pollutants tied to this environmental calamity.


Sandy H. Straus, president of Boca Raton-based ESRA Consulting Corp., is an engineer, contractor and software designer. Larry Straus is a software developer and entrepreneur.,0,2020124.story