It is clear that policy makers and elected leaders are starting to pay closer attention to some of the energy-water issues impacting Florida. Finally, there are some efforts underway on several fronts to protect water quality, ensure better water quantity conditions in the dry season as well as moves toward a less water-intensive, renewable energy future in Florida.
One such success is the recent passage of a resolution by the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners unanimously urging Florida Power & Light (FPL) to discontinue the use of the porous limestone cooling canal system at their Turkey Point facility—the only one of its kind in the world. This antiquated system, which is essentially an open industrial sewer, threatens the future potable drinking water supply to the West and Biscayne National Park to the East. Monroe County should be applauded as they went a step further as their resolution seeks a solution to stop the continued contamination: a commitment with FPL to employ the best available technology to cool the two Turkey Point nuclear power reactors. According to Bill Powers, an engineering expert on cooling technologies who developed a report analyzing Turkey Point’s situation, the best fix is installing mechanical draft cooling towers. (View an aerial video of the existing cooling towers for Turkey Point Unit 5 by clicking the image above on the left.)
Without fail, the first step in any cleanup plan is to stop the source of the pollution. Cooling towers, commonly used at power plants worldwide (including for FPL’s proposed reactors at the same Turkey Point site), would stop the pollution loading from the leaking cooling canals into the Biscayne Aquifer that has been occurring over the last four decades. This solution provides another win-win: cooling water for the plant would be Miami-Dade’s re-use water that is currently being piped into the ocean. State law requires that ocean outfalls must stop by 2025. FPL could utilize the re-use water and the County wants a use for that water.
While applauding the efforts of Monroe County, much more needs to be done. We hope more Florida lawmakers press for action. Miami’s State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, for instance, recently introduced several bills addressing Florida’s electricity sector and the impacts on both consumers and water resources. We are asking the Monroe County Commissioners, along with concerned lawmakers and other leaders, to send this resolution with a letter addressed to the Governor and Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection urging them to enforce the Clean Water Act. We must protect our ground water resources and hold FPL accountable for the mess at their Turkey Point facility. Together, Florida regulators, lawmakers and the concerned public must push FPL to embrace the future instead of looking only at its short-term profits.