It is very likely that everyone who heard Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s State of the County Address was mystified when he revealed that he wanted the county to transfer reclaimed wastewater to FPL for use in FPL’s cooling canal system at Turkey Point.
It is a bit complicated, but I will do my best to simplify. The mayor’s proposal seeks to achieve two goals:
1. Start the road to compliance with reuse requirements imposed by the State of Florida, and
2. Mitigate the effect of the cooling canals, currently used at the Turkey Point plant, which can be deleterious both for thermal pollution and for accumulation of toxic residue.
Let’s explain the second of these first. The reader might remember that less than two years ago the Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution supporting efforts to discontinue the use of the Turkey Point cooling canals by 2033. The concern at the time was that the cooling canals were leaking water that was warm and had small amounts of barium.
The amount of barium was not enough to provoke emergency enforcement action, but it certainly wasn’t welcome news both because barium in higher amounts could be harmful and because a certain amount of salt water was percolating farther inland.
Now let’s get back to the primary purpose of using our wastewater to cool Turkey Point power plants.
In 2008, legislation was passed requiring all wastewater utilities in Southeast Florida utilizing ocean outfalls for disposal of treated wastewater to reduce nutrient discharges by 2018, cease using the outfalls by 2025, and reuse 60 percent of the wastewater flows by 2025.
This Ocean Outfall legislation requires the county to eliminate 117.5 MGPD (million gallons per day) of ocean outfall by the year 2025. In effect, this means that the county will have to figure out a way to abolish long outfalls (pipes) that take water that has been treated to a certain level (called tertiary) a few miles into the middle of the ocean.
In the county’s original compliance plan (2013), it was anticipated that FPL would use 90 MGPD of reclaimed wastewater for new nuclear reactors using cooling tower technology that did not use cooling canals — bringing us to 75 percent compliance with state legislation. The mayor’s recent proposal will use about 60 MGPD which would bring us halfway to our compliance target.
In the long run, the county seeks to utilize as much as one-third of its entire wastewater stream to cool two nuclear reactors. These (referred to as No. 7 and No. 8) have just been given tentative approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. If you combine the 60 million gallons now being proposed for existing plants with the 90 million that could be used in the cooling towers for the new reactors, the county would be in full compliance with the 2025 requirements.
The icing on the cake would be the elimination of the cooling canals eight years ahead of the expiration of the current permit.
This is what is called a win-win proposition.
Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez can be reached at 305-669-4003 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.