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FPL to draw back saltwater plume

BY BRIAN BOWDEN Free Press Staff
bbowden@keysnews.com

SOUTH FLORIDA —


The major electricity supplier will begin working to draw the hypersaline underground plume infringing on the Biscayne Aquifer back to Turkey Point’s cooling canal system.

The utility then proposes to send the plume water more than a half-mile underground into the boulder zone, away from the shallow, porous aquifer.

The Biscayne Aquifer, a 4,000-square-mile underground body of freshwater, provides 17 million gallons of drinking water a day for the Florida Keys.

To fully retract the plume will take 10 years, according to FPL’s plans.

“Based on face value, it looks encouraging,” Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority engineer Tom Walker said of the proposal. FKAA delivers potable water from the aquifer to the Keys.

The plans must still be approved by Miami-Dade County and state regulatory agencies. After that, FPL said it will begin implementation immediately.

“We are committed to eliminating our contribution to the high concentration of saltwater in the Biscayne Aquifer,” FPL Vice President of Environmental Services Randy LaBauve said.

FPL has been under scrutiny for more than a month after a study found radioactive tritium, in low levels, is making its way from Turkey Point’s cooling canals into Biscayne Bay.

Aside from that, the water in the cooling canal system, which has grown saltier than the ocean, has fed the saltwater plume stretching toward the aquifer and threatening to contaminate drinking water supplies.

As for the current location of the plume, Walker said it has migrated a couple of miles west of the cooling canals, but it’s still roughly 5 miles from the island chain’s drinking water monitoring wells in Florida City.

According to FPL’s plans, the utility will tap into the hypersaline water associated with the plume with retraction wells, pull that water back to Turkey Point’s boundaries and shoot it approximately 3,000 feet underground through an around-the-clock deep injection process.

Walker’s only skepticism with FPL’s plan lies with the number of retraction wells — a proposed six or seven — and whether that would be enough to accomplish the goal in 10 years.

“[The engineering] can be done,” Walker said. “But [six or seven] is a small number in my mind.

“I’m just encouraged they submitted a plan with time requirements,” he added. “I think they’ve somewhat put their words to a schedule now.”

Aside from the plume plans, FPL said it “will soon begin utilizing brackish water to maintain optimal salinity levels in the cooling canals.” And “this system … will maintain the ongoing health of the canals and reduce future contributions to hypersalinity in the aquifer.”

The adding of water from the brackish Floridan Aquifer to the cooling canals has already been approved by Florida’s Siting Board and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The 43-year-old power plant supplies power to all of South Florida, including the Keys. Turkey Point’s 5,100-acre canal system, built around 40 years ago, acts as a huge radiator to cool water used at the plant in the generation of electricity. It was originally put in place as a substitute to dumping the plant’s water into Biscayne Bay.