- Susan Salisbury Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saying Florida regulators have failed to protect the state’s waters, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tropical Audubon Society have filed a federal lawsuit against Florida Power & Light Co. over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act related to contaminated water discharges from its Turkey Point Power Plant.
The plant near Homestead includes two nuclear reactors that are cooled by a canal system that is polluting the Biscayne Aquifer as well as the surface waters of Biscayne Bay, the lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Miami states. The aquifer supplies drinking water to more than 3 million South Floridians as far north as Boca Raton.
“We feel it is imperative that we pull the trigger on this Clean Water Act lawsuit as a vote of no confidence about what is happening in the state,” SACE executive director Stephen Smith said Wednesday.
Calling the 2-mile-by-5 mile unlined cooling canal system an “open industrial sewer like nothing else in the world,” Smith said the remedies proposed in a June 20 consent order signed by FPL and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection won’t solve the problem and could worsen the situation.
Smith referred to the order as a “deal” that reads as though it were written by FPL for FPL.
FPL has been working with local and state agencies, scientists and other experts to improve the long-term health of the canal system and the groundwater, FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said.
“The fact is this is the same lawsuit that SACE announced in March. It’s just another publicity stunt from an anti-utility group with a long history of spreading false information and pursuing wasteful legal action,” Daly said in an email.
On average about 600,000 pounds of salt seep from the canals into the groundwater every day and the salty plume has migrated underground at least 4 miles west, Smith said. Nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia and radioactive tritium are among the pollutants being discharged.
“It’s failing as we speak,” Smith said. “This is not the best technology available for cooling water. Every other utility in the world has cooling towers.”
Alan Farago, conservation chair for Friends of the Everglades, which plans to join the lawsuit, said, “Friends of the Everglades has viewed the Turkey Point failure with alarm for many years.”
Laura Reynolds, a former Tropical Audubon director who now works as a SACE consultant, said the consent order issued last month was a recycled version of an earlier Miami-Dade County consent order.
“Any time you have a cleanup scenario, you have to stop the source. They haven’t even proposed that,” Reynolds said. “We are stepping in the regulators’ shoes and saying, ‘We can do better. We want to enforce the laws and protect the people and the environment.’ ”