Friday, October 28, 2016

FPL Turkey Point update and the November election ... by gimleteye

Earlier this year, the pollution crisis exploded at FPL Turkey Point. Science revealed what environmentalists had been complaining about for many years; that pollution was contaminating underground aquifers serving south Dade, threatening the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay.

Only a few years ago, environmentalists had strongly opposed the "up-rating" of the aging nuclear facility and now their fears were realized: the super-hot, saline conditions were radiating beyond the boundaries of the nuclear plant, underground.

The bad news triggered a hurried response from GOP leadership in Florida, as afraid for the political outcome of regulatory failure in November as for fixing the crisis itself.

Fixing the crisis would require a commitment to de-comission the failed cooling canal system and to replace it with cooling towers, standard at every other nuclear reactor facility in the U.S.

In the past, it paid politically to bury all the ways the cooling canal system at Turkey Point violated binding agreements between FPL and the state. How FPL and its parent company, NextEra Energy, did this -- beyond campaign contributions to incumbents who are part of the protection racket -- is to make sure that when government regulators test water quality, that testing is designed to reveal positive results the polluter seeks instead of science that might tilt politics in the direction of protecting people not corporate profits.

For example, for many years FPL steadfastly opposed the use of a radioactive isotope produced by Turkey Point reactors in assessing its water pollution by regulators, even though that isotope -- called tritium -- is scientifically established as a true marker of water contamination sources.

FPL needed a fast plan to deflect public criticism or else its political protectors would face jeopardy at the polls, so earlier this summer -- after an emergency field hearing in Homestead headed by incoming state senate president Joe Negron -- FPL and the state came up with a quick fix that will cost the company, and ratepayers, at least $200 million.

When Negron came to Homestead, he was flanked by two fellow Republican state senators who are influential members of the Miami-Dade GOP delegation, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a former FPL lobbyist, and Anitere Flores, supportive of FPL until the crisis blew up.

The electoral optics were clear: "we are going to fix this problem" was the message, delivered by Michael Sole, FPL's top environmental officer in Florida, past director of Gov. Rick Scott's environmental agency, and current board member of the Everglades Foundation.

The so-called "fix" helped deflect attention away from the jeopardy to Republicans in November.

This week, the primary civic group challenging FPL at Turkey Point on the cooling canal crisis -- the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy -- said the state plan won't work. The 160 mile long cooling canal system is leaking through underground fractures and convection routes through the soft and porous aquifer, according to a report of new data.

Voters should care about the bad public policy and politics that continues to permit pollution from one of the most powerful corporations in Florida.

This issue alone is a reason to vote for Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democratic state representative who is running against Diaz de la Portilla for the state senate. Rodriquez has been one of the most vocal critics of FPL on Turkey Point, in sharp contrast to DLP.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat running against incumbent state senator Anitere Flores, has a long record of civic involvement on behalf of the environment and Biscayne Bay.

Florida taxpayers, FPL ratepayers, and citizens deserve better than our current Republican leadership. A vote for Jose Javier Rodriguez and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is a step in the right direction.

FPL’s Turkey Point fix won’t solve pollution problems, group asserts

Susan Salisbury
Palm Beach Post
October 27, 2016

Just weeks after Florida Power & Light began work to clean up an underground plume of extremely salty water and other toxins stemming from its Turkey Point nuclear plant, a clean energy advocacy group says the plan will not work.

“The solutions that FPL and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have proposed will not stop the pollution. It will only clean up the old pollution,” said Laura Reynolds, a consultant for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

In fact, new findings provided by Miami-Dade County indicate water from the cooling canals is likely seeping into Biscayne Bay, Reynolds said this week.

“We have suspected these natural springs to be contributing to the problem for five years,” Reynolds said. “There are natural caverns within the limestone that connect groundwater to surface water. You can’t cover those up or fill those in.”

The plant about 25 miles south of downtown Miami has a two-mile by five-mile unlined cooling canal system adjacent to Biscayne Bay. The system circulates billions of gallons water daily to cool the plant’s two nuclear reactors.

In late September, FPL began a 10-year $206 million project to inject up to 15 million gallons a day of hypersaline polluted groundwater into the boulder zone below the Biscayne Aquifer. The project includes making some of the canals that are not part of the cooling system more shallow.

FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said the company is in compliance with administrative orders issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management.

“FPL continues to work closely with regulatory agencies and key stakeholders to address concerns. The company will ensure our approach meets all requirements set forth by the state’s consent order and the county’s consent agreement and addendum. FPL continues to build on the progress it has already made to improve the water quality of the canals,” Robbins said.

In July SACE and Tropical Audubon Society filed a federal lawsuit against FPL saying that the discharge of polluted water from its Turkey Point plant’s cooling canals into Biscayne Bay and ground water violates the federal Clean Water Act.

The underground plume extends at least 4 miles west of the cooling canal system and is consuming potential drinking water supplied from the Biscayne Aquifer to 3 million South Floridians.

Reynolds said that new data obtained from DERM shows that groundwater is seeping through the porous limestone under the canals and into Biscayne Bay. DERM is still analyzing the water.

Robbins said FPL has not received the new data.

FPL and DERM have been more closely monitoring Biscayne Bay and surface waters connected to it since 2010.

In an amended complaint filed earlier this month, SACE, the Tropical Audubon Society and Friends of the Everglades assert that this year DERM discovered additional “upwellings of groundwater” into Biscayne Bay at new monitoring locations that are flowing at lowtide and during high rain events.

SACE has advocated for FPL to abandon the cooling canal system for cooling towers, which FPL has said don’t make sense financially or environmentally. As long as the cooling canals operate, 600,000 pounds of salt is escaping each day into the canals.

“The plan they have in place may actually cause harm,” Reynolds said. “Models that have been run show they will damage the wetlands and Everglades restoration project unless they do it slower to avoid a drawdown of the water table in the area.”

If the work is done more slowly, FPL will not be in compliance with a Florida Department of Environmental Protection consent order issued in June.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A link to a feb. 2014 Tampa Bay Times article by Ivan Penn noting an issue with a cooling tube at St.Lucie Nuclear plant (the plant in the vicinity of the Indian River algae blooms this past summer):

(Of note, during the mid-to-late 90s, a McClatchy press release noted the collapse of a structure being built at the Savannah River Weapons Facility. This structure collapsed - fortunately during construction - as a subcontractor substituted an inferior grade of steel. A similar situation may be why FPLs cooling tube malfunctioned in 2014 - and cause for concern that other tubes may have issues.)