Image credit: JEA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 12, 2018
JEA DISCHARGING POLLUTION INTO GROUNDWATER AND ST. JOHNS
Groups Urge Immediate Action to Stop Pollution and Revise Permit
Jacksonville, FL — Sierra Club and St. Johns RIVERKEEPER today submitted technical comments to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) regarding the pending renewal of JEA’s pollution discharge permit for the Northside Generating Station (NGS).
The technical comments are available upon request to Lisa@stjohnsriverkeeper.org.
The groups are urging FDEP to revise the Industrial Wastewater/National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit, which expired on May 8, 2017, to protect the Lower St. Johns River, vulnerable wildlife and the public’s right to live, fish, and swim in a healthy and safe environment.
The JEA Northside Generating Station (NGS) is located in an environmentally sensitive area surrounded by the Lower St. Johns River, San Carlos Creek and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, “one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast.”
“The Northside Generating Station operations are causing serious harm to the St. Johns River ecosystem,” said Janet Stanko, local Group Chair for the Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group. “Contaminants dumped directly into groundwater and leaching from JEA waste facilities are making their way into the river, its tributaries, and surrounding wetlands. Operations at NGS harm endangered sea turtles and kill billions of aquatic organisms each year.”
“Our vibrant river ecology is being threatened by the fact that this facility continues to operate under an expired permit which is in dire need of revision. Sierra Club and the St. Johns RIVERKEEPER have submitted comments to Florida DEP and JEA to sound the alarm that action should be taken immediately to help protect one of Florida’s most precious resources,” said Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper.
Documented evidence indicates that toxic metals are being dumped directly into the groundwater and leaching from NGS waste facilities. These contaminants are migrating into the St. Johns River, its tributaries, and surrounding wetlands.
In addition, NGS’s outdated cooling system is killing up to 109 billion organisms annually through entrainment (sucking aquatic organisms through intake screens to face lethal temperatures and pressures) and at least 190,000 more each year through impingement (trapping organisms on screens, causing death, injury, or weakness), including three species of endangered and threatened sea turtles. This process also involves the discharge of heated, chemically-treated water back into the river that can be harmful to wildlife.
Recommendations to address these continuing threats to public and environmental health include the following:
- Cease JEA’s discharge of highly polluted wastewater directly into groundwater and indirectly into San Carlos Creek, surrounding tidal marshes, and the St. Johns River;
- Require immediate corrective action to halt and clean up the ongoing toxic contamination of ground and surface waters from NGS’s waste facilities;
- Revoke DEP’s unlawful beneficial use exemption that allows JEA to sell “hazardous combustion residuals” from NGS to the public;
- Ensure that sufficient monitoring and reporting requirements are in place to adequately evaluate ground and surface water pollution trends, encompassing all contaminants of concern;
- Require installation of a closed-cycle cooling system as soon as possible, to reduce NGS’s massive entrainment and illegal impingement of protected species and to comply with federal law; and
- Mandate the implementation of interim, protective requirements at NGS’s cooling water intake system to reduce the velocity of intake water to reduce impingement (entrapment of organisms) and continuous screen operation to reduce entrainment (pass through of organisms) until closed-cycle cooling is operational.
Sierra Club, founded in 1892, is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots nonprofit environmental organization, with more than 37,000 members in Florida. Sierra Club’s purposes are to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the Earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the Earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity in the protection and restoration of the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.
Founded in 1999, the St. Johns Riverkeeper is a non-profit, membership organization with a mission to be an independent voice that defends, advocates, and activates others to protect and restore the St. Johns River. We are a privately-funded, independent and trusted voice for the St. Johns River and the public to whom it belongs.