In its original plans for the two nuclear reactors, FPL had intended to dump its very hot, saline coolant water directly into Biscayne National Park. A lawsuit and intervention by environmental groups resulted in an important FPL concession to water quality concerns. The nuclear facility is required to operate hundreds of miles of cooling canals under an agreement with the state agency, the South Florida Water Management District.
Part of the agreement is the assurance by FPL to monitor and to mitigate any performance failures of the cooling canals. Although FPL successfully maintains its "good neighbor" marketing program to the public, it has been less than truthful about significant problems in containing the canals' hyper saline water.
According to its website FPL is a really good environmental steward, "About nine-tenths of the Turkey Point property remains in its natural state of mangroves and fresh water wetlands. There are more than 60 known species of birds and animals that inhabit the property. Of these, 17 are endangered. The endangered American crocodile enjoys a favorable habitat in the plant cooling canal system. We protect the crocodile and conduct research by counting crocodile nests annually to record population changes. More than 3,000 crocodiles have been marked and released, and FPL is committed to continuing protection of the species while encouraging ongoing public education. This program and the plant's unique habitat for crocodiles has attracted national attention by CNN Headline News, Disney and National Geographic."
Perhaps CNN Headline News ought to report the June 25 correspondence from the acting superintendent of Biscyane National Park, George McHugh,
"... We are concerned about water quality in the Turkey Point cooling canals and the apparent ongoing trend in decreasing water quality. We would like to know the status of investigations and negotiations that may be in process to evaluate the issues associated with poor water quality in the cooling canals. We would like to see further investigation and review by a multi-agency technical team to understand the apparently broad poor water quality trends, their source, and potential solutions. Given that the cooling canal area has hydrologic connections to surrounding groundwater and thus surface waters, including Biscayne National Park, we see this as a critical water quality issue for the Park. We believe that this phenomena and any resulting actions by Florida Power and Light with respect to addressing water quality on site at the Turkey Point Power Plant site, including treatment to plant structures, should be reviewed by the regulatory agencies responsible for oversight. These agencies would include but not be limited to Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), Miami-Dade County Regulatory and Economic Resources (RER), U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission."
On July 11th, the South Florida Water Management District responded in its typical style of scrubbing bad news: first, decline to admit there is any data revealing environmental problems then acknowledge extraordinary measures are being taken to address the problems that might have sprung up from nowhere: "A review of several years’ worth of data collected under the monitoring program has not indicated any adverse impacts to the waters of Biscayne Bay from the CCS (FPL cooling canal system). As your staff is aware, monitoring data has shown that hypersaline water from the CCS has migrated westward at depth in the groundwater. (EOM italics) The Department and the SFWMD have put FPL on notice that abatement measures must be implemented and we anticipate issuance of an Administrative Order in the near future to address these issues. (EOM note: foot-dragging by FPL and the corporation's refusal to substantively correct violations of its agreement with the state has gone on for many years.)
FPL recently has reached out to a number of agencies for assistance, including the Department, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and SFWMD, regarding a recent increase in CCS water temperature, which has been exacerbated by the presence of algae blooms in the canal. Agency staff inspections of the facility in response to reports of the current algae bloom indicate the bloom is limited to the CCS itself. It is not unusual for wastewater treatment ponds to exhibit algae growth in the hot summer months--hot weather and lack of rainfall likely have contributed to the bloom.
The current severity of the bloom and its potential impact on FPL’s ability to generate electricity for South Florida required immediate actions to be taken. To that end, on June 27 the Department approved FPL’s request to use a combination of copper sulfate, hydrogen peroxide and bio-stimulants (copper sulfate blend) in the CCS to address the current algae bloom; which are commonly used to treat algae blooms in aquatic systems. ... Also on June 27, the SFWMD supported FPL’s request to temporarily use groundwater from the Floridan Aquifer that had previously been permitted for use as process and process cooling water, to decrease the temperature in the CCS. (EOM emphasis) This support was memorialized in an amendment to Turkey Point’s site license, issued by the Siting Coordination Office. ... FPL will continue to evaluate the causes of the recent algae bloom and CCS temperature increase, and will identify, develop, and implement a more long term solution."
It is remarkable for the state to first admit that FPL is failing to meet its obligations in the first instance with respect to groundwater violations -- while completely avoiding why it has failed to enforce against the corporation -- and then to immediately take the corporation's side in assuring that the corporations will be responsible sometime in the future on problems with the cooling water in the canal system itself.
The use of Floridan aquifer water is of particular concern because Miami-Dade County has dumped billions of gallons of scarcely treated municipal wastewater into the Florida aquifer only a few miles away through so-called "injection control wells". The South Dade Wastewater Treatment facility -- only a few miles from Turkey Point -- takes the torrent of used water filled with human discharges, water from cruise ships, waste from industrial and hospital applications, from mortuaries to kitchens to satisfy demands for low-cost growth for construction and the massive development of population centers while maintaining a scrim of environmental responsibility. At the bare minimum, FPL and the state of Florida should report to the public exactly the water quality statistics and data from the use of Floridan water and regularly update the public on the FPL emergency.
CNN and news organizations should also report this issue in the context of FPL's ambitions to build two new nuclear reactors at the lowest-lying, most climate-change threatened area of coastline in the nation. Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ought to consider the new permits -- due for consideration by 2016 after an EIS is completed -- in the context of severe problems with the operation of the existing nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, so far these issues have been segregated as though they were in their own cooling canals waiting for the critics to melt away.