By Susan Salisbury
Florida Power & Light Co. is working to develop a plan to remove hypersaline water near the cooling canal system at its Turkey Point Power plant complex, but Tuesday a Miami-Dade County official called for the company to address saltwater intrusion in general.
Since 2010 the plant’s 2-by-5-mile unlined cooling canal system has been linked to higher phosphorus and ammonia levels in Biscayne Bay and groundwater directly connected to the Biscayne Aquifer. The plant 25 miles south of Miami is between Biscayne Bay National Park and Everglades National Park. It includes two nuclear reactors.
Tuesday, Miami-Dade County Commissioners weighed in on FPL’s proposal to use 3-D groundwater modeling to identify the location of hypersaline water groundwater and develop a plan to safely remove it.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said that modeling, as evidenced by hurricane modeling, isn’t always accurate.
Lee Hefty, the county’s director of its Department of Environmental Resources Management, agreed that models are predictive tools and said the county will also require groundwater monitoring.
Hefty said that while there has been concern about the hypersaline underground plume extending from the plant, there are also worries about saltwater intrusion in general because it could impact drinking water.
Progress is being made, Hefty said, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated it wants to work with county and state agencies to solve the problem.
Giménez said, “We are not just looking to stop this hypersaline plume, we are looking to draw it back.”
Laura Reynolds, a consultant with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said Tuesday that FPL’s proposal doesn’t include mitigation for damage to Biscayne Bay or any cleanup to the east to protect the national parks.
If the plan is approved by county and stage agencies, FPL said it will immediately implement it. Airborne Electromagnetic surveys conducted by helicopter have enabled scientists from FPL and other organizations to precisely identify the location of hypersaline groundwater and to develop detailed plans for its safe removal, company officials said.
“We are committed to eliminating our contribution to the high concentration of saltwater in the Biscayne aquifer,” said Randy LaBauve, FPL Vice President of Environmental Services. “The data-driven methodical plan demonstrates our ability to move the hypersaline plume back in an environmentally responsible manner and reverse a situation compounded by numerous environmental factors, including historically low levels of rainfall in 2014 and 2015.”
FPL scientists and engineers submitted the in-depth plan to DERM, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, and the South Florida Water Management District on Monday.
In addition to its long-term strategy to draw back the saltwater to the boundaries of Turkey Point, FPL will soon begin utilizing saltier water from wells being drilled to extract water from the Floridan Aquifer.
The Floridan Aquifer sits beneath the less-salty Biscayne Aquifer, which is the source of drinking water for 3 million South Floridians.
FPL officials have repeatedly stated that the recent hyper-salinity issue involving the cooling canal system has not had any adverse impact to drinking water, safety or public health. They have also said will there be any lasting adverse impact on Biscayne Bay.
Reynolds disagreed, saying that for the last 40 years the plant’s cooling canal system has been discharging pollutants into the groundwater, and now that groundwater is in the surface waters of both the national parks.
While the underground saltwater plume has not reached water being currently used for drinking water, Reynolds said it has seeped into drinking water supplies that could have been used in the future, but now cannot be.
“The areas that are contaminated we will never be able to drink. It is just not what we are currently consuming,” Reynolds said. “It is misleading for them to say everything is okay.