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Q and A: Effects of the Operations at Turkey Point and What You Can Do

By: Laura Reynolds on behalf of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE)

Industrialized fossil fuel and nuclear power plants run massive quantities of water continuously through the units in part to cool them down in order to prevent the consequences of overheating. The water used to cool down the hot units is called “cooling water.” But imagine pouring water into a hot pan on your kitchen stove. The water gets hot pretty quickly, but the pot itself cools just a bit. The same result happens at a power plant. The cooling water heats up as it cools the units. But different from pouring water into an enclosed hot pan, at a power plant, the water must flow out of the units. This flow is referred to as a “discharge.” At Turkey Point in south Miami-Dade County the daily discharge is in the hundreds of millions of gallons of water every day.

When FPL first began operating Turkey Point in the late 1960s, the heated cooling water was discharged by a pipe directly into Biscayne Bay, killing much of the marine nursery grounds around it. The negative impacts were clear and easily understood. In the early 1970’s, at about the same time the U.S. EPA was established and President Nixon signed the CWA into law, a federal judge in Miami required FPL to stop the direct discharges of heated water into the Bay. A holding area of sorts for the discharge water, which includes many contaminants, was developed. Ultimately, the “holding pond” became an approximately 10 square mile area of connecting canals carved into the limestone that acts like a radiator and looks like the long back-and-forth lines at Disney World. These “cooling canals” are the first and only experiment of its kind; no other nuclear power plant relies on such an antiquated concept. The cooling canals were constructed in porous leaky limestone with no liners to contain the heated water—essentially an open industrial sewer. And although the heated cooling water was stopped from directly discharging into Biscayne Bay by instead being dumped into the cooling canals, according to decades of data the discharges have been slowly leaking through the porous limestone in every direction into the aquifer and into Biscayne Bay for as long as the canals have been operating.

If you have been following this issue, you may know that there was a federal lawsuit filed in July 2016 against FPL for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) at its Turkey Point power plant, the nuclear facility that is approximately 3 miles from Ocean Reef. In the lawsuit, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Friends of the Everglades (FOE) and Tropical Audubon Society (Tropical) allege that FPL has not been complying with its zero-discharge permit (NPDES). Below, we explain what this means to you.

Below are some frequent questions about what’s happening at Turkey Point and what can be done. Please click on the question for the corresponding answer.

1.                What is in the leaking discharge water?

2.                Why litigate when regulatory agencies are supposed to protect the environment?

3.                Where are the discharges?

4.                What are the effects of the discharges into Biscayne Bay?

5.                Is there a feasible solution to the discharges?

6.                What does it cost to remedy the legacy discharges of contaminants and who will pay for it?

7.                How do Turkey Point’s water issues intersect with Everglades Restoration?

8.                What can I do as a resident and or member of Ocean Reef Club? Who can I contact?

For more information please contact Laura Reynolds, SACE consultant, at laura@cleanenergy.org or 786-543-1926. Access an extensive document prepared by Bonnie Rippingille Schoedinger, “The Federal Lawsuit Against Florida Power and Light for Violations of the Clean Water Act at the Turkey Point Nuclear Facility: A Position Paper and Summary of the History, the Legal Issues, Evidence of Violations and Proposed Solutions,” here. Contact Bonnie Rippingille Schoedingeran Ocean Reef Member and Resident at rippdinger@aol.com305-367-2665.  

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