There’s no question Florida Power and Light’s Turkey Point nuclear power plant is responsible for high levels of salt in groundwater under and around the plant near Homestead.
And there’s no doubt salt in the water is a bad thing – as it moves closer to wells that supply water to part of Miami-Dade County, and starts leaching into Biscayne Bay.
What is in dispute: Who should pay the $200 million to clean up the mess?
FPL says its customers should, through an environmental cost recovery charge tacked on to bills.
But the consumer advocate to the Public Service Commission in Tallahassee and an environmental group say the utility – and its shareholders -- should take the financial hit.
After all, they say, it was FPL’s negligence that caused the salt intrusion in the first place.
FPL denies negligence was involved, saying it operated “in full compliance with all applicable regulations, and nonetheless an unintended consequence occurred.”
The unintended consequence: salt concentrated and forced into groundwater beneath the cooling canals, which act as an open-air radiator beside the plant, cooling water so that it can be cycled back into the plant.
Over the decades, the salt has migrated for miles outside the plant’s boundaries, polluting the water.
Cleaning it up is difficult – and expensive.
“We are working diligently to withdraw hyper-saline water and bring it back on property,” said FPL spokeswoman Bianca Cruz.
“Approximately 3.7 billion gallons of hypersaline groundwater from beneath the (cooling canal system) have been extracted and disposed of in the naturally saline boulder zone formation located 3,200 feet below surface," she said. "This has resulted already in the removal of 890,000 tons of salt from the Biscayne aquifer beneath the CCS.”
FPL insists it’s “entitled to recover prudently incurred costs for an approved environmental project.”
But the consumer advocate and environmental group, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, argue there’s nothing prudent about the neglect that led up to the salt intrusion.
“It is obscene for FPL shareholders to earn a profit on decades of FPL negligence and deception,” SACE wrote in its most recent filing to the PSC.
The PSC is expected to issue a ruling next month.
If FPL gets what it wants, the typical residential customer would next year pay an environmental cost recovery charge of $1.59 a month.