Citizen groups signal intent to file Federal lawsuit against Florida Power and Light (FPL), citing radioactive elements and other water pollution discharged into Biscayne Bay

Guest Blog | March 22, 2016 | Press Releases


Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865-235-1448, [email protected]


Citizen groups signal intent to file Federal lawsuit against Florida Power and Light (FPL), citing radioactive elements and other water pollution discharged into Biscayne Bay

Advocates question FPL’s commitment to full disclosure and proper clean up of contamination


Miami, Fla. – Last week, following an extensive review of the growing body of evidence documenting leaks of radioactive elements and other pollutants into Florida surface and ground water, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tropical Audubon Society issued a 60-day notice of intent to file a citizen lawsuit against Florida Power & Light (FPL) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Full text of the notice of intent can be accessed here.

Recent studies confirm that contaminated water leaking from FPL’s Turkey Point nuclear power plant is polluting the Biscayne Aquifer, a sole source aquifer that provides drinking water to more than 3 million people in the region, and to the neighboring Biscayne National Park. Clear evidence of contamination from FPL’s power complex into the surface waters of Biscayne National Park has created the necessity for this citizen suit under the Federal Clean Water Act. While this pollution has been documented since 2010 in lower levels, new studies from the Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) and the University of Miami have clearly shown the pollution’s pathway and origin.

Among those contaminants is tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen produced by nuclear reactors most often found as a groundwater contaminant at nuclear plants. Radioactive tritium has been documented in both surface and groundwater outside the Turkey Point nuclear complex and studies confirm a growing plume of hyper-saline water and other pollutants in all directions including into the Biscayne Aquifer.

Despite years of data proving that FPL has violated its operating permits, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has failed to issue warnings or fines. This is why citizens have felt compelled to file a suit under the Clean Water Act, as stated in the notice of intent:

Section 301(a) of the Act U.S.C. § 1311(a), prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source to waters of the United States except in compliance with, among other conditions, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued pursuant to section 402 of the Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1342. Each violation of the permit, and each discharge that is not authorized by the permit, is a violation of the CWA.

FPL has violated and is violating its NPDES Permit by unauthorized discharges of the pollutants, including, but not limited to, excess salinity, phosphorus ammonia, TKN, total nitrogen, and radioactive tritium, into waters of the United States in Biscayne Bay. Additionally, FPL has violated its NPDES Permit by discharges of hyper-saline water contaminated with radioactive tritium into ground water, threatening the water supply for Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys. FPL has also violated the Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants without an NPDES permit and causing violations of water quality standards in Biscayne Bay, which is protected from degradation as an Outstanding National Resource and Outstanding Florida Waters.

“The regulatory safety net that should be in place to protect the public interest has been shredded by FPL’s manipulation of the political process,” Dr. Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). “The Florida State Department of Environmental Protection has been missing in action, effectively sidelined by FPL’s financial support of Gov. Rick Scott.”

Since 2010, extensive documentation has confirmed that contaminated water from FPL’s network of cooling canals (two miles wide by five miles long) has been illegally discharged into both the surface waters of the Bay and the ground waters with a direct connection to the aquifer.

The cooling canal discharges contain a slew of pollutants including ammonia, phosphorus, total nitrogen, high salinity levels and radioactive tritium. The levels of tritium measured in the cooling canals are approaching the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) established for drinking water of 20,000 pCi/L and are already well above recommended public safety goals that have been established in other states. While the surface waters of the bay were measured in the 100’s of pCi/L in 2010 they are now over 2,000 pCi/L in the lower surface waters near the cooling canal system, showing a steady increase over a short period of time.

“The normal background levels of tritium formed by atmospheric deposition in the surface waters of the bay are about 0.5-3.5 pCi/L, so we have reason to be very concerned for the health and safety of our National Park and the citizens and tourists that fish, swim and recreate there,” said Laura Reynolds, consultant with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and former executive director for Tropical Audubon Society. “The reality is we do not know the extent of the damage this pollution plume has caused to the marine life or how it may have traveled through the porous limestone substrate.”

“This is a serious issue that requires serious action, which is why Tropical Audubon Society has joined with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to issue a notice of intent regarding violations to the Clean Water Act,” said Jose Barros, president of the Tropical Audubon Society. “We have very real concerns that FPL will not take the proper steps to address the growing problem.”

Public statements by FPL leadership and a recent op-ed in the Miami Herald by FPL’s President represent that the spreading contamination is “safe” and that releasing radioactive tritium to public waterways is not a serious issue.

“It is not okay for FPL to continue to downplay the significance of these risks in the name of protecting their shareholder profits,” said Laura Reynolds. “Miami area residents will not accept a commercial, industrial site like Turkey Point causing an ever-expanding plume of contaminants in the aquifer that supplies our drinking water, nor will we accept discharges of radioactive materials in our national parks.”

This problem was initially caused when FPL constructed their poorly-designed, unlined cooling system and made worse when the utility “uprated” their nuclear reactors using advanced cost recovery dollars to increase energy production at the facility and generate more profits as detailed in the notice:

In 2012 and 2013, the two nuclear generators were ‘uprated’ to increase power production, resulting in a much higher than predicted increase in the temperature and salinity of the water in the cooling canal system. The Turkey Point Power Plant and the cooling canal system are underlain by porous limestone geology, including the Biscayne Aquifer, and the contaminated water in the cooling canal system has for many years discharged, and continues to discharge, from the cooling canal system into the groundwater and into Biscayne Bay.

These actions, and FPL’s ongoing desire to build two additional nuclear reactors at the site instead of taking the time to fix what is already broken, makes it clear that the health of Floridians is not the Company’s priority, which is why this coalition is demanding that action by regulators be taken.

“Operating an industrial power facility effectively bordered by two national parks and highly protected waters requires the highest standards and strong regulatory oversight. Anything less is unacceptable,” said Dr. Stephen Smith.



Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy promotes responsible energy choices that work to address the impacts of Global Climate Change and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at

Founded in 1967, Tropical Audubon Society endeavors to conserve and restore natural South Florida ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats through advocacy and education for the benefit of biological diversity and humanity itself. Learn more at