March 23, 2018

The Monroe County Commission is now the second local government agency to ask that Florida Power and Light be required to replace its aging canal cooling system at Turkey Point nuclear power plant with cooling towers. 

The County Commission on Wednesday followed in the footsteps of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority board in penning a letter to Miami-Dade County urging the decommissioning of the cooling canal system (CCS).

The letter comes as FPL is working to reduce a saltwater plume created by the plant and cooling canal system that is threatening the Florida Keys’ drinking water supply. The plant and cooling system created a hyper-saline plume that is endangering of contaminating the FKAA well field in the Biscyane Aquifer.

“Decommission the CCS and replace them with cooling towers, which is a more modern and industry-standard technology that will prevent any potential water supply contamination,” the FKAA wrote.  

The FKAA board, which sent its request earlier this month, also requested FPL halt the “movement and remediate the existing underground hyper-saline plume it created” and “prevent any further contamination of the Biscayne Aquifer by its operations.”

The County Commission on Wednesday agreed to have its staff author a similar letter after Laura Reynolds, of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, gave a presentation about FPL’s failed efforts to remediate the plume, and now are working on an agreement with Miami-Dade County that would allow the energy company to work with Miami-Dade County on a wastewater treatment plant and put some 60 million gallons of reclaimed water a day toward the canal cooling system.

Miami Dade County is facing its own issues with regulators about the handling of its sewage and needs to have the situation resolved. Miami-Dade had been at odds with FPL about Turkey Plant and radioactive tridium from the plant being released into Biscyane Bay and the nearshore waters.

Reynolds raised concerns about the reclaimed water proposal. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has filed a lawsuit against FPL about the contamination issue and building the cooling towers, which the group says will be more effective in reducing the saltwater plume and preventing such contamination in the future.

Reynolds argued that FPL’s plans would use three times as much water as cooling tower system and taking water in the dry season “when people and the environment need it the most.” 

Reynolds asked the Monroe County Commission to write amicus brief or intervene in its lawsuit against FPL over the issue.

The County Commissioners declined to intervene legally at this time, but instructed County Attorney Bob Shillinger and County Administrator Roman Gastesi to write a letter to Miami-Dade County spelling out their concerns and request requiring cooling towers being part of the long-term plan.

Reynolds told the commissioners they need to take action before April 10 when the Miami-Dade commission will consider the reclaimed water proposal.

FPL representative Mike Sole spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, arguing FPL has “made a lot of progress” in efforts to fix the hyper-saline plume issue. He said the westward movement of the plume has been halted, but the plume does remain.

FPL and the DEP are working under a remediation plan that SOLE argued is working and will eventually resolve the problem. FPL representatives said retrofitting the plant to accommodate the cooling towers would be extremely expensive and take years to permit and for construction.

A handful of Upper Keys and Ocean Reef residents spoke in favor of cooling tower system.

Also on Wednesday, the County Commission agreed to move forward with a program that will allow local residents and business owners to improve their properties to make them more hurricane resistant and energy efficient and finance the costs over time.

The commission approved the framework for a program called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). The state program allows property owners to receive upfront financing for green projects focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy, such as solar panels or windstorm improvements. They can also finance some home- and business-hardening projects, and new roofs as well, according to Erin Deady, who is a county contractor working on green and climate change projects.

Property owners voluntarily agree to the program terms for financing and repay through a special assessment added to their property tax bill.

tohara@keysnews.com