Underwater Wakulla- November 15, 2018
Our Sinkholes By CHRISTOPHER BROWN
The word “sinkhole” is common Florida term that means different things to different people. If you just moved here or only know about them from the news, sinkholes mean giant house-swallowing monsters that might even swallow you and your bedroom in the middle of the night! It’s happened — but that’s not at all typical, even though FL has underground rivers everywhere. The ground only collapses and forms a sinkhole when water level in the aquifer is reduced too much and the rock ceiling over the underground river down there is too thin to support the mass above — dropping rocks, sand, trees, and anything else into the water-holding spaces below. Much more typical than a lost house is all the other stuff that sinkholes swallow — and that too is a sad thing indeed!
Because sinks swallow stuff by accident, sure — and by intention too. Many divers enjoy scuba and snorkeling in “pristine” sinks, only to have the same disappointing experience I did — to discover that some sinks are used as garbage deposits. The unthinking, ignorant, the careless, and the criminal see sinkholes as convenient dispose-alls and the results have negative impacts that affect everyone.
The impulse to make things disappear is strong in us, and unfortunately sinks very easily answer that impulse to get rid of what we don’t want or need anymore. Scuba diving in a Leon County sink with a friend from Tallahassee PD one time, we found an opened safe, half a dozen cash drawers from convenience store robberies, a 6ft diameter bulldozer tire, 2 newspaper boxes, and a motorcycle. That’s one sink — and a crime scene! Many years ago, murderers disposed of bodies in a local sink, someone rolled a car into another, and one sink I dove included the unwanted parts of a butchered deer. How nice for all of us. Because the water traveling through those tunnels sends everything in it to our private wells, our municipal wells, and then our kitchen sinks and bathtubs.
The “dry” sink is one where the rock, dirt, and trees fall in and self-plug the hole, preventing open access to the water below — but contaminants still soak down into our aquifer, so the car batteries, oil cans, paint thinners, and other nasty stuff illegally thrown into them still gets into the aquifer and comes to us through our spigots. “Swallow holes” are sinks that receive entire creeks and streams of rain run-off, plunging deep into the ground where we tap it for sustenance. In the water being swallowed by Bird Sink near Lloyd is *everything* that’s been washed along — all of which can flow right into our drinking water: oil, gasoline, plastics, fertilizers, pesticides, industrial cleaners — you name it — it’s all in there. Where does it go? Vast distances. A dye trace revealed that water going into Bird Sink near Lloyd shows up at Natural Bridge!
All sinks are treasures, in fact. Each is an amazing natural phenomenon. The beautiful ones you fish, play, scuba dive in, and with proper training, explore into the caves, are treasures and must be treated as such — protected, preserved, and maintained so that our life’s blood — the aquifer — will be clean, life-giving, and sustain us. Let’s be very aware and *never* use sinkholes as garbage disposals. Out of sight is not out of mind: it’s in your water. If you have a water-filled sink that should be checked for junk and/or other polluting materials, please contact me about a free survey to determine what problems may exist and learn what might be done to return such a place to its natural, “pristine” condition. firstname.lastname@example.org
Whatever the size or location, a sinkhole is simply a treasure!