News Feature | July 27, 2016

Environmental Groups Sue Florida Power Plant For Contaminant Discharges

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

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In a testy back-and-forth, environmental groups in Florida are squaring off with a local power plant for what they claim are violations of the Clean Water Act.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and the Tropical Audubon Society recently filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Southern Florida, accusing Florida Power and Light (FPL) of allowing a canal cooling system at Turkey Point Power Plant to pollute Biscayne Bay and the Biscayne Aquifer.

According to rt.com, some environmental groups have also filed a lawsuit against FPL, saying that the company violated the Clean Water Act by discharging contaminants from the plant, impacting nearby drinking water.

FPL has failed to "adequately control the temperature of the cooling water in the cooling canal system, by failing to control the nutrient levels in the system, and by failing to properly operate the so-called 'interceptor' ditch to prevent widespread contamination of the groundwater by saline water and other pollutants, including radioactive tritium," the lawsuit read.

FPL responded, saying it has worked with government agencies and other experts to improve the canal system, said spokeswoman Alys Daly, according to The Palm Beach Post.

“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.

The Palm Beach Post reported that 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 to The Palm Beach Post.

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.’ ”

Image credit: "Coal power-plant and oilseed rape April 26, 2014" x1klima © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/