University of Miami study finds link in bay to Turkey Point canals

Tritium levels up to 215 times higher than normal in ocean water

By Associated Press, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor, Liane Morejon - Reporter

MIAMI - A University of Miami study in Biscayne Bay found high levels of a radioactive isotope linked to water from canals at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point power plant.

According to the study released Monday by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, water sampling in December and January found tritium levels up to 215 times higher than normal in ocean water.

"Due to the porous nature of the Biscayne Aquifer underlying the Cooling Canal System, a hyper-saline plume of Cooling Canal System water has migrated outside the boundaries of the Cooling Canal System through the groundwater and has moved beyond the boundaries of the Turkey Point facility property," the study said.

READ: Full study released by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez

The study comes two weeks after a Tallahassee judge ordered FPL and the state to clean up the nuclear power plant's cooling canals.

"Water from the cooling canal system at Turkey Point is migrating outside the system boundaries off the property and impacting ground water and water resources outside the facility," DERM Director Lee Hefty said.

FPL spokeswoman Bianca Cruz said Tuesday that the utility is working to improve conditions at the canals and analyzing data from various sample points.

The canals have had temperature and salinity issues since 2013, when FPL temporarily shut them down to increase power output and in the process worsened an algae bloom.

"Data results indicate that surface water quality at these sites is stratified with better quality water at the surface and decreasing water quality with increasing depth," the study said. "Although most stations met county water quality standards for ammonia at the surface, nearly all of these stations exceeded the county’s water quality standard for ammonia at the bottom."

"They've been pumping sources of freshwater into it to try and improve the water quality and now the water quality has improved a lot in the cooling canal system, but we still have the contamination of the ground," Hefty said.

Environmental activists want to see a fixes, such as down rating the plant and incorporating more solar energy as part of long term solutions to rely less on the nuclear reactors.

FPL officials said the public and its drinking water are safe and that improvements are a continuing effort.

"We're going to continue to evaluate data, including this report, to continue to take action to comply with regulations and to improve canal conditions at the plant," Cruz said.

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