Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fox News affiliate Sunshine State News papers shifts attention away from Big Sugar polluters ... by gimleteye

Sunshine State News is like a state affiliate of Fox News. The paper has tried to calm the waters of public opinion, pouring from coastal communities and voters sick of toxic water flooding into the estuaries from Lake Okeechobee. While the solution to Lake Okeechobee pollution is to treat all sources of pollution around the lake at their sources, the obvious "fix" -- to acquire vastly more acres of land around the lake for water treatment puts the focus exactly where the profits of Florida's most powerful campaign contributors are located: the Everglades Agricultural Area owned by Big Sugar billionaires.

In the mid-1990's, when the Lawton Chiles initiative called the Governor's Commission for A Sustainable South Florida called together a blue ribbon panel to move state Everglades' policies beyond the litigation that had been settled in the courtroom of Judge William Hoeveler, the experts and policy advisors helped focus public attention -- and later, Congress, federal agencies and the US Army Corps of Engineers -- on how to fix pollution, including Lake Okeechobee, without taking land through eminent domain in sugarcane production south of the lake.

The "fix" was a technology that proposed substituting underground storage "reservoirs" to stack unwanted water in huge quantities called ASR, or, aquifer storage and recovery. To most scientists and environmentalists, ASR was never more than a trick. Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Nevertheless, nearly twenty years ago it was clear -- abundantly clear -- that decision makers in Florida were ready to adopt a technology that was barely feasible but scalable, a feat of engineering that would scatter profits and campaign contributions out of the application of industry, a trick that would avoid the political problem of a land war with Big Sugar billionaires.

A true history of this era would explore the investments made by Big Sugar in other diversionary tactics. Campaign money flowed during these decades from Big Sugar into virtually every initiative to repel and obstruct government regulations; from the Sagebrush Rebellion that sought to mire the Florida Keys to development schemes at the edges of the Everglades. Environmental groups, during this time, were very successful in elevating the Everglades as a status symbol for a nation concerned about clean air and water but largely powerless to influence the political outcomes; especially the one that depended on an untried technology -- in Florida -- to obviate the need to confront the inadequate volume of surface storage to treat all the pollution fouling Florida's rivers, bays and estuaries.

Due to an extraordinarily wet year, Florida's estuaries attached by canals and river waterways to Lake Okeechobee are back in focus. There ought to be a law, but there is none. There is none, because state government and Florida legislators are all poised to shift the costs of pollution to taxpayers and benefit polluters. And because there is none, now conservative opinion is shifting back to that old war horse, that lame dog: aquifer storage and recovery.

One of Big Sugar's megaphones at Sunshine State News, opinion writer Nancy Smith, picks up the aquifer storage and recovery theme and shakes it like a wet rag. "(Water management) officials say that after dealing with damaging freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee, what should catch everybody's attention is the technology itself, making it possible to store more water than a typical above-ground reservoir." Smith might have examined the copious evidence that the costs of ASR can overwhelm any possible benefits. Like the 2003 report from the USGS, "As alternative approaches to increasing water supply and availability in southern California, such as injecting and storing treated water underground are explored, water managers need to be aware of potential impacts on water quality, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS study of a test site in the Antelope Valley of southern California, near Lancaster, found that when treated surface water was used to recharge the aquifer, by-products of the water disinfection process accumulated in the aquifer. These by products include trihalomethanes (THMs), which have been listed as carcinogenic by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)."

The premise of aquifer storage and recovery is that you can use wells drilled through the aquifer to lower geological layers to "store" water when it is not needed. Later, it can be withdrawn, like nickels in a piggy bank, when it is needed. The problem with ASR is that the water that is sent underground through multi-million dollar wells is dirty and when it is retrieved by industrial pumps it is dirtier still; carrying trace chemicals that can be even more deadly to people and to wildlife. So why are water managers playing the ASR card, through Sunshine State News? Because they have been urged in that direction, to deflect attention from Big Sugar.

Big Sugar has always been extraordinarily skillful in forging alliances. It used the Farm Bill, for instance, to tie the price support for cane sugar to corn fructose and beet sugar -- ensuring an enduring political alliance with members of Congress from the farm belt and Rocky Mountain states. In cultivating its relationships with well drillers and engineering firms, Big Sugar has tapped into another powerful political constituency in Florida.

So when you read about ASR as a possible solution to the Lake Okeechobee crisis, your Bullshit Meter should be registered, on high. Read on:


ASR Pilot Projects Deliver Hope to Lake Okeechobee Deluge Sufferers
By: NANCY SMITH | Posted: September 16, 2013 3:55 AM
Credit: www.evergladesplan.org

Dean Powell, director of the watershed management program at South Florida Water Management District, offered a promising status report last week on a little-known pilot program to store and convert bad water to good in the upper Lake Okeechobee basin.

The original Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan relied heavily on Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) technology, though not everybody involved was a believer when CERP was approved in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. Nevertheless, Congress directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the SFWMD, to undertake a pair of pilot projects to see how well the technology works, or if it would at all.

Addressing the governing board Thursday, Powell said the model ASR wells -- though challenges still exist -- have proved they "definitely should be kept in the toolbox of potential solutions" for storing and improving large volumes of water over longer periods of time. And they can increase water supplies during seasonal and multiyear droughts.

ASR "plants" have been used in Florida and throughout the United States for about 30 years, Powell said. What they do is to inject and recover treated and untreated groundwater, partially treated surface water and reclaimed wastewater.

SFWMD officials say that after dealing with damaging freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee, what should catch everybody's attention is the technology itself, making it possible to store more water than a typical above-ground reservoir.

In fact, Ernie Barnett, aquatic biologist and assistant executive director of SFWMD, described ASR as the CERP feature that dealt with lake releases to the estuaries, and the two pilots are proving it can work as originally envisioned.

In the proper location, for example, where the Kissimmee River connects with Lake Okeechobee, the first pilot has been operational through several cycles. That facility actually stores 3,000-acre feet of water on a footprint of 2 acres with 100 percent recovery efficiency.

"A very large side benefit is that it is improving the water quality," Powell said. Inflow water comes in from the Kissimmee with 130-150 ppb phosphorous count, but goes out at between 10 and 30 ppb.

The second pilot, the Hillsboro ASR pilot, is newer. Well rehabilitation was required on the site. It has a lower recovery efficiency -- 40 percent at present -- because the aquifer is more saline. The system has had only three test cycles through 2012; its efficiency number should increase as time goes on, Powell said during his presentation.

Certainly there are challenges involved with ASR, but Powell and other scientists believe they can be overcome. Among them: initial monitoring is expensive; wells can be susceptible to clogging; and chemical reactions in the aquifer could produce arsenic, though that problem is among the easiest to resolve.

Each well costs about $4 million to construct, with a very small land footprint. Thus, land purchase is virtually negligible.

Powell says the groundwater model shows the aquifer can support 140 wells without losing its integrity.

Most ASR facilities in Florida, primarily owned by municipalities, store water in the upper Floridan Aquifer in areas where the aquifer is brackish. The injected fresh water displaces brackish water in the aquifer to form a "freshwater bubble."

Powell also gave his ASR presentation to the National Academy of Sciences when the group met in West Palm Beach on Tuesday.


U.S. Department of the Interior
U. Geological Survey
Release Date: May 13, 2003


Study finds underground water storage may alter ground-water quality

As alternative approaches to increasing water supply and availability in southern California, such as injecting and storing treated water underground are explored, water managers need to be aware of potential impacts on water quality, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS study of a test site in the Antelope Valley of southern California, near Lancaster, found that when treated surface water was used to recharge the aquifer, by-products of the water disinfection process accumulated in the aquifer. These by products include trihalomethanes (THMs), which have been listed as carcinogenic by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"Injection, storage, and recovery projects that integrate surface-water and ground-water supplies are rapidly becoming important parts of California's water-supply system," said USGS scientist Miranda Fram, lead author of the study, "However, this study demonstrates that these projects may alter ground-water quality, and thus, potentially may affect the future usability of the water for some purposes."

The USGS study, in cooperation with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, examined the water quality effects of an injection, storage, and recovery test cycle, with a particular emphasis on the formation and fate of THMs.

The study found that THMs continued to form in the aquifer until the residual disinfectant (chlorine) present in the injected surface water was used up, and that bacteria in the aquifer would not consume significant amounts of THMs. Multiple lines of evidence indicated that THM concentrations in the water extracted from the aquifer decreased with time because the injected water was mixed with the native ground water in the aquifer. Because of this mixing, it was not possible to recover all the THMs in the aquifer.

"Consequently," said Fram, "repeated injection, storage, and recovery cycles in Antelope Valley aquifers would alter ground water quality in the aquifer. The accumulation of THMs could be minimized by removal of the residual chlorine in the water before injection, or by modification of the extraction program."

The U.S. Geological Survey report, "Processes Affecting the Trihalomethane Concentrations Associated with the Third Injection, Storage, and Recovery Test at Lancaster, Antelope Valley, California, March 1998 through April 1999" by Miranda S. Fram, Brian A. Bergamaschi, Kelly D. Goodwin, Roger Fujii, and Jordan F. Clark, can be found on the Internet at http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/wri/wri034062/

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

ASR is a bad idea and a waste of money. We need to focus on retaining surface wetlands to naturally recharge our aquifers.

Anonymous said...

Aquifer, Storage and Recovery was always a placeholder to avoid buying Big Sugar's land. And still is.