Florida Power & Light has started the process to draw back hyper-saline water generated from the Turkey Point nuclear power plant cooling canals that is threatening the Florida Keys water supply. 

Several years ago, FPL dug a deep well at the plant just north of the Keys and the company, starting last week, began using it to draw back the saltwater plume from the Biscyane Aquifer, the Keys freshwater supply, said Steve Scroggs, senior director of project development for FPL.

The well runs several thousand feet below ground and has ability to handle 15 million gallons of water a day, Scroggs said.

“It is a positive step,” Scroggs said. “As fast as we can do anything, we are doing it.

The deep well is part of a detailed plan to draw back the saltwater plume from the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority well field in the Biscayne Aquifer. Currently the plume is less than 10 miles from the FKAA well field.

The Biscayne Aquifer, a 4,000-square-mile underground body of freshwater, provides 17 million gallons of drinking water a day for the Florida Keys.

Plans approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) calls for long-term monitoring of the plume and requires progress retracting it within the next three to five years.

FKAA Executive Director Kirk Zuelch said he wants to make sure the monitoring program looks at removal of the saltwater plume at both the top of the bottom of the aquifer.

Also, Zuelch wanted to make sure that neither the FKAA nor Monroe County was on the hook for any of the costs, which could cost $206 million in the next 10 years, according to FPL cost estimates. 

“They created this situation and it’s incumbent on them to put it back in the right condition,” Zuelch said.

FPL has proposed to have the roughly 5 million ratepayers across the state pay the clean up costs. FPL does not have customers in the Keys, so the project has no impact on ratepayers in the Keys.

The costs will be paid for through “environmental cost recovery clause” fees in the customers monthly bills. The environmental cost recovery clause charge is $2.63 per month this year and will be reduced to $2.41 a month next year, according to FPL spokesman Peter Robbins. 

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tropical Audubon Society filed a lawsuit against FPL claiming the utility has violated the Clean Water Act. The Southern Alliance has questioned FPL’s clean up plans and has called on FPL to use a series of cooling towers to retract the plume.

Scroggs agreed the plan is worth considering, but questioned whether it would be economically feasible and how long it would take to implement the plan.

FKAA and the Monroe County government are following the situation but have agreed so far not to legally challenge an agreement between the DEP and FPL that gives FPL 10 years to retract the saltwater plume.