FLORIDA CITY, Fla., April 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) today announced progress on several fronts in the ongoing effort to improve the water quality in and around the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant's cooling canal system.
Most notably, FPL's actions to reduce salinity levels in the canals combined with recent rainfall have improved the system's water quality to the point at which the company has determined that it will no longer need to access water from the South Florida Water Management District's L-31 canal in the foreseeable future.
"We have been taking aggressive action to address the cooling canal system's water quality challenges, and we are seeing significant progress," said Randy LaBauve, FPL Vice President of Environmental Services. "We have been clear that it will take several years to fully resolve the canal system's complex challenges – and that continues to be true – but the improvements we're seeing are important steps forward."
FPL's Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant continues to operate safely as it has for more than 40 years, generating zero-carbon energy to power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses throughout South Florida. The recent water quality challenges involving the cooling canal system do not impact the safety of the plant or public health.
FPL has been working with Miami-Dade County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for more than a year on a comprehensive plan to improve the overall water quality in and around the unique, 168-mile cooling canal system. Excess storm water from the South Florida Water Management District's L-31 canal was being used temporarily to help freshen the cooling canals, and in February, FPL had applied to continue to draw additional water from the L-31. However, the company has since determined that the salinity level of the water in the cooling canal system will be manageable this year without additional L-31 water.
"Audubon Florida was supportive of the South Florida Water Management District's decision to allow limited use of L-31 water during the emergency drought in 2014 and 2015," said Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida. "We urged FPL to explore other long-term solutions, and we are pleased that the L-31 water is no longer needed."
FPL continues to move ahead with long-term canal management, including utilizing brackish water from the Floridan aquifer to help keep the salinity of the cooling canals in proper balance with the salinity of Biscayne Bay. In March, the state of Florida's Siting Board approved the construction of wells to access the brackish water.
The approval of the Floridan aquifer wells contributed to the company's ability to forego withdrawals from the L-31 canal. FPL had begun seeking permission to take this important step more than a year ago, however, it was delayed by litigation.
Remediating Nutrient Levels in Deep Artificial Channels
FPL has also taken immediate actions to reduce elevated levels of ammonia that were found in four deep, isolated artificial channels that are adjacent to the cooling canals. FPL and Miami-Dade County conduct extensive water-quality monitoring on a regular basis in and around the cooling canals, including in Biscayne Bay, and data continues to confirm that the issue is isolated to these four areas.
Ammonia is produced naturally when plants and animals die and decay, and it can become concentrated in waters that do not flow freely. The artificial channels are approximately 20 to 25 feet deep, which is three to five times deeper than Biscayne Bay. FPL's scientists believe that this difference in depth results in stagnation in these isolated areas. The company has increased the frequency of monitoring in these areas and has been working on solutions since the elevated ammonia levels were recorded.
FPL's most recent monitoring shows that the ammonia concentration in one of the four artificial channels has already dropped below the regulatory standard. Also, in mid-April, FPL completed construction of a new remediation system to clean up another of the artificial channels by safely removing deep stagnant water and blending it into the 5-billion-gallon cooling canal system to reduce overall nutrient levels. The newly-installed system is removing approximately 7 million gallons of deep water from the artificial channel each day and does not impact plant-life or wildlife.
FPL will continue to take action in the coming weeks and months to ensure that the nutrient levels are normalized in all four artificial channels.
FPL takes new steps to protect the American crocodile
A wide variety of species regularly move in, out and around Turkey Point's cooling canal system. Frequent visitors include bald eagles and other raptors, wood storks, eastern indigo snakes and American crocodiles. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reclassified the American crocodile from "endangered" to "threatened" in 2007 thanks in part to years of ongoing protection and habitat provided by Turkey Point's cooling canal system and FPL's biologists.
FPL, in coordination with University of Florida (UF) biologists, monitors the system's crocodile population throughout the year. For many years, FPL tracked crocodile nesting and hatchlings and in 2009, prior to the extended power uprate investment, expanded efforts to monitor crocodiles of all life stages. In 2015, FPL further expanded the program to include blood analysis.
In the wake of the two-year drought that impacted the water quality of the cooling canals, the monitoring program has recorded lower density of crocodiles within the system. In 2015, fewer nests were recorded than in recent prior years. Although this does not necessarily indicate a problem for the species, because crocodiles roam freely in and out of the canal system, living and nesting in the Everglades and other areas, FPL is broadening the scope of its monitoring program this year to encompass parts of Biscayne Bay.
FPL believes the lower number of crocodiles recorded in the canal system has been due at least in part to the increase in the canal system's salinity levels that occurred as a result of the extended drought and exacerbated by litigation brought by local groups that delayed FPL from moving forward with critical fresh water relief. Fortunately, in the annual crocodile monitoring report, which will be filed with the South Florida Water Management District, UF biologists note that they believe "crocodiles will respond positively to improved habitat conditions that may be linked to lower salinity levels; first by increasing in relative density, but then increasing in body condition as salinities continue to decrease and ecosystem functions return."
"As we continue to make progress at reducing the salinity levels in the canals, we expect to see more crocodiles return to the system in the coming years," said Kristin Eaton, FPL environmental specialist and wildlife biologist. "Unfortunately, salinity may not be the only challenge facing this important species, and we have to remain vigilant."
In addition to addressing the salinity levels, FPL is also taking action to fight a growing threat to the crocodile population – the Argentine black and white tegu lizard, an invasive non-native omnivore species that consumes a variety of foods, including reptile eggs. In just the past few years, the tegu lizard has rapidly emerged as a serious environmental threat in South Florida.
To protect the crocodile and other indigenous wildlife, the company has been partnering with environmental advocacy groups, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the University of Florida and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find ways to combat the tegu lizard. FPL has enlisted an invasive-species expert to trap and remove tegu lizards in the Turkey Point cooling canal system with environmentally appropriate methods. The new trapping program begins this month.
"FPL's Turkey Point facility over the years has been extremely important to the increase in the American crocodile population, providing protected nesting sites along cooling canal berms. The Argentine black and white tegu poses a serious threat to that population," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "We're encouraged by FPL's support for critical tegu capture-and-removal work. It is imperative to have the cooperation of both government and the private sector to effectively manage invasive species in Florida."
For updates and more information, visit www.TurkeyPointFacts.com.
Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving more than 4.8 million customer accounts or more than 10 million people across nearly half of the state of Florida. FPL's typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 30 percent lower than the latest national average and, in 2015, was the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the sixth year in a row. FPL's service reliability is better than 99.98 percent, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among all utilities nationwide. The company was recognized in 2015 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Market Strategies International. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,800 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), a clean energy company widely recognized for its efforts in sustainability, ethics and diversity, and has been ranked No. 1 in the electric and gas utilities industry in Fortune's 2016 list of "World's Most Admired Companies." NextEra Energy is also the parent company of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world's largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun. For more information, visit these websites: www.NextEraEnergy.com, www.FPL.com, www.NextEraEnergyResources.com.
SOURCE Florida Power & Light Company