Thursday, September 27, 2012

Florida's DEP: Injecting Waste Under Our Feet

Excerpts from a PBCEC letter to Cathleen McCarty of the DEP's Underground Injection Control program,

The UIC is a dangerous program. It is an embarrassment to science and a threat to public health. I can only hope that I'm telling you something you already know.

I receive the UIC notices, and I am utterly disgusted with the amount of permits approved through this agency. Waste water should be treated above ground, where it can be responsibly managed and returned into the aquifer through a healthy and natural process, which can also provide possible restored habitat for wildlife. If the waste is too dangerous for this sort of treatment, then its creation should not have been permitted in the first place. This is common sense. Only extreme corruption and greed can argue otherwise.

Sadly, there is far too many permits deserving challenge for our group to keep up with. It seems perhaps only a karmic justice can stop this curse.

The following is an excerpt from a report entitled: Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us, by Abrahm Lustgarten, for ProPublica, published on this Summer's Solstice (June 21, 2012)

It features Florida's failures in waste water injection, among dozens of other examples. Please share this information with others in your office:

"...When sewage flowed from 20 Class 1 wells near Miami into the Upper Floridan aquifer, it challenged some of scientists' fundamental assumptions about the injection system.

The wells — which had helped fuel the growth of South Florida by eliminating the need for expensive water treatment plants — had passed rigorous EPA and state evaluation throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Inspections showed they were structurally sound. As Class 1 wells, they were subject to some of the most frequent tests and closest scrutiny.

Yet they failed.

The wells' designers would have calculated what is typically called the "zone of influence" — the space that waste injected into the wells was expected to fill. This was based on estimates of how much fluid would be injected and under what pressure.

In drawings, the zone of influence typically looks like a Hershey's kiss, an evenly dispersed plume spreading in a predictable circular fashion away from the bottom of the well. Above the zone, most drawings depict uniform formations of rock not unlike a layer cake.

Based on modeling and analysis by some of the most sophisticated engineering consultants in the country, Florida officials, with the EPA's assent, concluded that waste injected into the Miami-area wells would be forever trapped far below the South Florida peninsula.

But as Miami poured nearly half a billion gallons of partly treated sewage into the ground each day from the late 1980s through the mid 1990s, hydrogeologists learned that the earth — and the flow of fluids through it — wasn't as uniform as the models depicted. Florida's injection wells, for example, had been drilled into rock that was far more porous and fractured than scientists previously understood.

"Geology is never what you think it is," said Ronald Reese, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey in Florida who has studied the well failures there. "There are always surprises..."

Read the whole report here:

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