State officials have approved an emergency request for more water to control temperatures in cooling canals at a nuclear power plant near Miami, while critics are calling for more scrutiny of the system.
The South Florida Water Management District on Thursday approved the request for 14 million gallons of water a day from the brackish Floridan aquifer to cool the canals at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point power plant. The request now goes to the Miami-Dade County Commission on Tuesday.
The utility blames below-average rainfall for raising temperatures and salinity and fueling an algae bloom that's also trapping heat tin the canals. FPL and nuclear regulators say the canal temperatures don't pose any public safety risk.
"We believe that the temporary use of excess storm water, if available, can make an immediate positive impact," FPL spokeswoman Bianca Cruz said in a statement. "Our long-term actions will be based on results of the steps we are taking now."
The Miami Herald reports that critics worry that diverting more water to the canals could affect efforts to revive Biscayne Bay, which also has suffered from algae blooms and high salinity.
"We're very concerned that this is going to be a precedent-setting action," Biscayne National Park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom told the water management district's governing board. "We're also concerned that the conditions in the cooling canals are symptomatic of a bigger problem."
FPL began treating the canals with chemicals in June to try and control the algae bloom and lower temperatures. However, the bloom has persisted and FPL reported in July that temperatures in the canals had reached 102 degrees.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted FPL permission to operate the canals at higher temperatures, up to 104 degrees. Usually, a 100-degree federal limit would require an expensive shutdown.
Carlstom and other critics have asked the water management district to require FPL to convene an independent team of scientists to examine the cooling canal system.