Just weeks after Florida Power & Light began work to clean up an underground plume of extremely salty water and other toxins stemming from its Turkey Point nuclear plant, a clean energy advocacy group says the plan will not work.
“The solutions that FPL and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have proposed will not stop the pollution. It will only clean up the old pollution,” said Laura Reynolds, a consultant for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
In fact, new findings provided by Miami-Dade County indicate water from the cooling canals is likely seeping into Biscayne Bay, Reynolds said this week.
“We have suspected these natural springs to be contributing to the problem for five years,” Reynolds said. “There are natural caverns within the limestone that connect groundwater to surface water. You can’t cover those up or fill those in.”
The plant about 25 miles south of downtown Miami has a two-mile by five-mile unlined cooling canal system adjacent to Biscayne Bay. The system circulates billions of gallons water daily to cool the plant’s two nuclear reactors.
In late September, FPL began a 10-year $206 million project to inject up to 15 million gallons a day of hypersaline polluted groundwater into the boulder zone below the Biscayne Aquifer. The project includes making some of the canals that are not part of the cooling system more shallow.
FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said the company is in compliance with administrative orders issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management.
“FPL continues to work closely with regulatory agencies and key stakeholders to address concerns. The company will ensure our approach meets all requirements set forth by the state’s consent order and the county’s consent agreement and addendum. FPL continues to build on the progress it has already made to improve the water quality of the canals,” Robbins said.
In July SACE and Tropical Audubon Society filed a federal lawsuit against FPL saying that the discharge of polluted water from its Turkey Point plant’s cooling canals into Biscayne Bay and ground water violates the federal Clean Water Act.
The underground plume extends at least 4 miles west of the cooling canal system and is consuming potential drinking water supplied from the Biscayne Aquifer to 3 million South Floridians.
Reynolds said that new data obtained from DERM shows that groundwater is seeping through the porous limestone under the canals and into Biscayne Bay. DERM is still analyzing the water.
Robbins said FPL has not received the new data.
FPL and DERM have been more closely monitoring Biscayne Bay and surface waters connected to it since 2010.
In an amended complaint filed earlier this month, SACE, the Tropical Audubon Society and Friends of the Everglades assert that this year DERM discovered additional “upwellings of groundwater” into Biscayne Bay at new monitoring locations that are flowing at lowtide and during high rain events.
SACE has advocated for FPL to abandon the cooling canal system for cooling towers, which FPL has said don’t make sense financially or environmentally. As long as the cooling canals operate, 600,000 pounds of salt is escaping each day into the canals.
“The plan they have in place may actually cause harm,” Reynolds said. “Models that have been run show they will damage the wetlands and Everglades restoration project unless they do it slower to avoid a drawdown of the water table in the area.”
If the work is done more slowly, FPL will not be in compliance with a Florida Department of Environmental Protection consent order issued in June.