Miami Senator Wants Review Of Biscayne Bay Contamination

Mar 30, 2016

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, wants Senate leaders to establish a select committee to review the recent discovery of a radioactive isotope in Biscayne Bay linked to a nuclear power plant in southeast Miami-Dade County.

Flores' request to Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, follows the March 7 release of a study by Miami-Dade County that indicated tritium --- a radioactive isotope of hydrogen --- has leaked from Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point plant's cooling canals into groundwater and toward Biscayne National Park and the Biscayne aquifer.

"This is a potentially serious environmental and health hazard for people across South Dade and the Florida Keys," Flores said in a statement releasedWednesday. "I want to make sure that the state is doing everything in its power to protect the water supply that is so vital to our state."

Katie Betta, Gardiner's spokeswoman, replied in an email on Wednesday that the request remains under review.

Flores wants the committee to be made up of a bipartisan group of senators from across the state and to start meeting in a few weeks.

"This is a serious issue, and the Legislature will do all it can to keep the drinking water of South Floridians safe and preserve the delicate environment of the Florida Keys and the Biscayne Bay Aquifer," Flores said in the statement.

The study on the Biscayne Bay water, conducted by the University of Miami and the Miami-Dade County's Department of Environmental Resources Management, drew headlines for finding the level of radioactive tritium 215 times the amount found in normal ocean water.

FPL spokesman Rob Gould said last week that while utility officials continue to work with Miami-Dade County to address conditions of the plant's 4-decade-old canals, the claims by conservation and anti-nuclear energy groups have been blown "out of proportion."

"The elevated levels of tritium are still about 78 percent less than what the EPA sets as its standard for tritium in drinking water," Gould said last week.

Gould added that FPL expects to meet with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the cooling canals.

In response to the study, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tropical Audubon Society last week issued a 60-day notice of a pending federal lawsuit against the Juno Beach-based power giant.

The notice called on state and federal regulators to take action against FPL under the Clean Water Act because of discharges going into groundwater. If regulators do not take action within the 60-day notice period, the groups will sue for civil penalties and ask for an injunction against continued violations.