NEW PORT RICHEY — Is it a sinkhole or a spring? Is there a connection to the aquifer or not? Orange Lake could soon give up some of its secrets during some environmental tests.
New Port Richey City Council has authorized pumping some of the water out of the lake as part of tests by Dana Gaydos with Gaydos Hydros Services.
Results could determine if the city could use Orange Lake for flood control by draining it in advance of tropical storms, hurricanes or other heavy rainfalls.
For instance, Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012 dropped more than 15 inches of rain on areas in West Pasco in little more than a day. Floodwaters exceeded 100-year events in some spots.
The lake could also represent a potential water resource if it recharges from the Floridan aquifer, the subterranean layer of limestone that is a major source of the state’s drinking water.
Orange Lake has appeared dark and murky ever since he was a child, Councilman Jeff Starkey said.
The murky appearance is among preliminary indicators that the lake is a sinkhole remnant, Gaydos replied. Other early clues from water samples show the lake has almost no salt content, quite opposite from relatively high salinity levels in nearby Pithlachascotee River.
Sonar readings show Orange Lake about 15 feet deep in some spots.
If the lake is drained and doesn’t recover normal water levels, then Orange Lake has no connection to the aquifer, Gaydos elaborated.
If the lake is drained but it does recover, that would prove a connection to the aquifer, which would be recharging the lake with groundwater.
The city already owns pumps in event of flooding, so the cost of the test should be minimal, Gaydos said.
The pumps would drain water out of the lake for up to three days, she added. It would take only one day to determine if the test should continue.
The two pumps are capable of withdrawing up to 7.2 million gallons per day.
Gaydos assured city officials the tests would not cause any flooding or more sinkholes.