Update: Since Laura’s blog post below, the Palm Beach Post’s Susan Salisbury reported on the concerns with FPL’s flawed clean-up plan in her “Protecting Your Pocketbook” blog/column. Find it here.
Last week Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tropical Audubon Society filed an amended complaint to the Clean Water Act challenge filed this past July to officially add Friends of the Everglades and update the complaint with some of the new data and science that has now been collected and analyzed. You may be asking yourself what our additional concerns could possibly be because isn’t FPL extracting the pollution plume and fixing the problems?
Certainly recent news reports including statements from Florida Power and Light (FPL) makes one think everything at Turkey Point is under control and that the measures being put in place will solve the contamination problems in Biscayne Bay. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
There is a clear connection between Turkey Point’s leaking cooling canal system and Biscayne Bay. The elevated nutrient and tritium levels found in deep areas within Biscayne Bay are indicative of water that originated within or beneath the leaking cooling canal system (CCS) and demonstrate a hydraulic connection between the CCS and the Bay. Limestone bedrock immediately underlying the canal system (see map to the right) and Biscayne Bay consists of highly porous and permeable limestone that provides a direct connection of the groundwater to the surface water environment of Biscayne Bay. This allows for the movement of contaminated water from within and beneath the CCS to Biscayne Bay every low tide and especially during heavy rain events.
FPL’s proposed remediation plan is costly and won’t stop the continued pollution of Biscayne Bay. FPL has proposed a minimum 10-year remedial action plan costing $50 million dollars for just this year to clean up only the legacy plume. To our knowledge, the Water Quality violations within Biscayne Bay adjacent to the CCS and the backfilling and restoration project do not yet have a cost estimate. The plan consists primarily of backfilling only two manmade excavations at the Barge Basin Canal (sites TPBBSW-6 & TPBBSW-8) and the Turtle Point Canal (site TPBBSW-7), which clearly showed violations of phosphorous and other contaminants.
While backfilling of deep excavations at these two sites will likely reduce the direct flow of contaminated groundwater into Biscayne Bay at those locations, the overall remediation plan does not address the full potential for continued contamination of Biscayne Bay by the open industrial sewer that is the canal system. Only two of many potential pathways for pollution migration are being addressed. For example, sampling at sites TPBBSW-1 through TPBBSW-5 also showed violations of various contaminants without deep excavations being present. In addition, numerous natural underground connections exist within the Biscayne Aquifer and recent sampling from identified deep seeps indicate a groundwater connection to surface water especially during low tide and high rain events.
An accurate model would show that FPL’s proposed cleanup plan would negatively impact nearby wetlands and Everglades Restoration efforts. If FPL or one of our state agency’s responsible for protecting water resources of the state corrected this model and accounted for the technical problems that experts identified, the net result would be less water available than FPL is claiming, so therefore a greater impact to adjacent wetlands and the progress of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Less water available for delivery to restoration projects is problematic as they are responsible for rehydrating estuaries across the southeast end of Florida that are thirsty for clean fresh water. The only way to retract the plume safely would be to slow the operations and pumps to protect the wetlands and water resources. FPL would not be in compliance with DEP’s Consent Order to halt the plume within 3 years and fully retract it within 10 years. Click here for more information on Model Flaws. Clean up would in fact take a lot longer, and the sheer volume of water FPL plans to pump into the deep aquifer has never been done before, among other concerns.
Given the inaccuracies associated with the FPL model used to develop the proposed remedial actions and given the limitations of only addressing two possible hydraulic connections between the leaking cooling canals and Biscayne Bay within a highly permeable groundwater matrix, the proposed remedial actions by FPL will not stop the continued flow of contaminated water from the CCS to the surrounding groundwater system and the surface waters of Biscayne Bay. So isn’t it wiser to spend the money on something that will work?
The leaking cooling canal system needs to be replaced. The only way to stop the interactions of contaminated groundwater into the Bay is to replace the antiquated open industrial sewer with current technology, such as mechanical draft cooling towers along with a more sustainable water source like the Miami-Dade County Reuse Water as was suggested by engineer Bill Powers in his recent technical report. This technology can be implemented more quickly and affordably (estimated capital costs are less than $350 million with completion in 5 years or less) and will result in a long-term solution that represents a win-win for the community. Why squander ratepayer money to keep an antiquated, leaking system operating that will continue to threaten our drinking water and Biscayne Bay? Why not spend less money on an existing technology that can be used long into the future and will stop the pollution?
Not only does this guarantee a complete abatement of salt loading and the interactions with our sole source aquifer, it will make use of the ocean outfall sewage water of 117 million gallons per day that Miami-Dade is mandated to recycle by 2025.
There is an opportunity to not only protect our sole source aquifer and Biscayne National Park permanently, but to stop the damaging releases of ocean outfalls and improve water quality and resiliency in South Florida. To protect this area from increased saltwater intrusion, continued aquifer contamination and continued pollution leaking into Biscayne National Park, please ask your elected officials to support a real solution, such as the installation of cooling towers. If you are a resident of Miami-Dade or Monroe counties, please contact your County Commissioner and ask them to support this resolution.