Current operations at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant are a significant threat to the health of Biscayne Bay.
The danger posed by the plant’s current operation is twofold. First, the plant generates a plume of hypersaline water which degrades the aquifer and contributes to chloride pollution in the bay. Second, the Industrial Wastewater Cooling Canal System generates large amounts of ammonia and phosphorous, in addition to other contaminants that now have been found leaching out into the bay.
Finally, the vast amount of fresh water utilized by the plant conflicts with the goals of Everglades’ restoration and the needs of the county for drinking water.
Nuclear facilities such as Turkey Point require massive amounts of water to cool down their reactors. The nuclear facility at Turkey Point utilizes a “once-through” cooling system which draws water from Biscayne Bay and runs it through a series of canals hereafter referred to as the Industrial Wastewater Cooling Canal System or “IWCCS.” This water is used to cool down the steam supply into a liquid state to be reused in the reactor. When the water in the IWCCS is exposed to the heat of the turbine steam, much of it evaporates.
The water taken from Biscayne Bay is brackish, meaning it contains some salt. When the water in the IWCCS evaporates the salt is left behind, leading to ever saltier or “hypersaline” water. The issue is, that hypersaline water is not staying confined to the IWCCS. A huge plume of incredibly salty water is spilling out from the IWCCS into Biscayne Bay in the east and the Biscayne aquifer in the west.
While FPL has permits to release salt, those permits only apply within the boundaries of the IWCCS itself. The release of salt in this manner is specifically prohibited. The logic behind this regulatory regime rests in the assumption that the IWCCS is a closed system, it has never been a closed system. There is an 18-foot interceptor ditch that provides for a hydrologic barrier to the west, but as the water evaporates the heaver salt water sinks and loads our aquifer and moves swiftly west toward wellfields and into our aquifer. The boundary only works for the first 18 feet.
This hypersaline environment negatively affects the Biscayne Bay ecosystem by reducing the productivity and diversity of numerous species (including commercially valuable snook, and pink shrimp populations) as well as decreasing overall biodiversity due to the elimination of less salt tolerant species in affected areas. It also threatens the drinking water supply of Miami-Dade County by loading the aquifer with undrinkable saltwater.
Miami-Dade County is moving to expedite Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands to help make South Dade more resilient to sea level rise and protect our water supply. These operations, which have led to record profits for the private utility, are in direct conflict with our future resiliency and future cost of our water supply.
Furthermore, new data suggests that the IWCCS is responsible for huge amounts of Tritium being leaked into Biscayne Bay. This is used as a marker that clearly tags this water to the CCS system and Turkey Point operations. This water also is laden with ammonia and its toxicity is known to significantly damage fisheries and fish populations. Phosphorous also is found in high amounts and is responsible for algal blooms across the state. This may be one of the contributing factors to persistent algal blooms found in Biscayne Bay that are under-reported by the media.
The Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands project is one of the so-called “second generation” projects given congressional authorization in WRRDA 2014. The goal of this project is meant to reestablish the normal circumstances of freshwater flow into Biscayne Bay and in doing so combat the issue of hypersalinity which has come to endanger nursery habitats and seagrass beds along the coast of Biscayne Bay. The continued harmful operations at the Turkey Point power plant run contrary to the goals pursued by this project, and the goals of Everglades’ restoration as a whole.
Send your Miami-Dade commissioners and the Miami-Dade mayor an email and ask them to take action by contacting the EPA and asking them to strip DEP of its delegation to uphold the clean water act. Clearly degradation of a national park and a community’s water supply has been allowed to be polluted under its watch.
Also, I would like to thank Laura Reynolds for some of the content and information provided here. We are sad at Community Newspapers and in Miami-Dade to see her leave the Tropical Audubon Society as its fearless leader. However, we are excited to know she now is able to work for any environmental cause with her new consulting firm, Conservation Concepts LLC. Contact her for help with your environmental issues or concerns and she can help give your issue a voice as she did for Miami-Dade County for a decade.
Write or call your Miami-Dade commissioner and/or attend the 9:30 a.m. Mar. 8 commission meeting andspeak up to protect our drinking water and National Parks.