With a high demand for electricity this summer, a new algae outbreak at Turkey Point’s industrial waste water system was challenging Florida Power & Light and concerning some environmentalists.
As the algae thrived in the nuclear plant’s 168-mile-long canals, FPL engineers noticed it was warming up the slow-moving water east of Homestead and west of Biscayne Bay.
"Based on our analyses, an increase in the amount of algae at Turkey Point’s cooling canals was caused by low amounts of rainfall in 2013 coupled with an increased nutrient content in the canal system," FPL spokeswoman Bianca Cruz said.
FPL built the canals after pressure from environmentalists to avoid dumping hot water into Biscayne Bay. Now the hot water is threatening FPL’s equipment efficiency.
The system is running into trouble just as FPL had to develop controversial cooling systems for two new nuclear reactors set to begin operations in 2022. Several cities in Miami-Dade had opposed to the reactors and its two transmission lines.
To get rid of the algae problem, FPL consulted with officials from several governmental organizations -- the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Commission and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The South Florida Water Management District and Biscayne National Park scientists were not involved in the decision.
FDEP authorized FPL to use a commonly used chemical mix that includes hydrogen peroxide and copper sulfate to kill the algae. FPL was also allowed to use ground water from the Floridan Aquifer system and an air circulation process.
"That should not impact fish or other wildlife," Cruz said.
Environmentalists disagree. Some fear that pollution from Turkey Point could be hurting surrounding marine life and making it into the highly permeable Biscayne Aquifer – where Miami-Dade and Broward County get most of their drinking water.
"It’s not good," environmentalist Matthew Schwartz said. "The limestone is porous. Salt water is heavier and it sinks down into the aquifer. Hot water evaporates. You can’t isolate systems like that."
Cruz said government officials have monitored the canals, which are closed to the public and don’t interact with Biscayne Bay or with the fresh water aquifer.
On Wednesday, a team of FPL workers was focused on getting rid of the algae in the canals that are now home to American crocodiles.
"Since we just began these efforts it’s too early to report back on progress," Cruz said. "But we remain optimistic."