Environmentalists rally against proposed drilling wastewater disposal well near Everglades

03/21/14 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: Environment Florida, wastewater disposal well, Fracking, drilling, Oil, environment


Jennifer Rubiello, field associate with Environment Florida

photo by Sean Kinane, WMNF News 2013

Environmentalists are continuing a campaign urging the EPA to reject a toxic wastewater disposal well near local drinking water supplies and the neighboring wildlife refuge. The plan would allow chemical containing waste to be pumped into an underground well. Environment Florida’s Jennifer Rubiello says if the well is approved, it could lead to other extreme drilling projects like fracking.

"On March 11 the Environmental Protection Agency hosted a special information session and public hearing. It marked the continuation of a campaign to urge the EPA to reject a toxic wastewater disposal well near local drinking water supplies and a neighboring wildlife refuge that is home to the endangered Florida panther. So we're further concerned because Florida's porous limestone geology means that it's going to be more likely that drinking water resources in the area will be contaminated. Volatile hydrocarbons in the wastewater, which are much lighter than water, could rise through underground caverns and potentially pollute water resources that are assumed to be safe. Also all rock in Florida is soluble limestone so any chemical that has the least reaction to calcium carbonate is going to eventually dissolve the rock that supposedly keeps the wastewater from seeping into our drinking water. So it may not happen immediately but flooding our drinking water supply with toxic wastewater now and years from now is not an option. We urge the EPA to consider the precedent this disposal will set for drilling and acid fracking and other forms of extreme extraction in our most treasured places in Florida. It makes no sense to dispose of wastewater or drill in any form in and near places where the state and federal government has collectively spent tens of millions of dollars to restore. Places like Corkscrew Swamp, Big Cypress, and the Everglades. Given that the alternatives to this injection well is transportation of this wastewater by truck to somewhere else we urge the EPA to deny the underground injection control permit and halt the facilitation of any kind of drilling; acid fracking, conventional or otherwise in our Everglades and in Florida to avoid the problem of disposal altogether. At the end of the day our water is finite and out aquifer is our lifeblood so we shouldn't allow it to be treated as a trashcan."

That was earlier in the month but there's still some opportunity for the public to get involved? Tell me about that.

"The EPA actually extended the public comment period last March 11th after over 300 Floridians turned out to the public hearing at the Golden Gate community center in Naples, Florida to voice their concern over drilling and acid fracking in Big Cypress Swamp watershed and near the Everglades National Park. All of them, every single one, one hundred percent of the people there urged the EPA to reject a permit for injecting toxic waste underground. Which, we argued that, could set the stage for acid fracking and threaten our water quality and panther habitat. We have a couple more weeks, a little less than a couple more weeks to send comments to the EPA, to Fred McManus at the EPA and his email is Mcmanus.Fred@epa.gov."

Part of the concern you mentioned also is that this could open the floodgates to other types of drilling. How are the two related? How would allowing an injection well accomplish that and possibly lead to more drilling practices in the state?

"It's a dual permitting process so if the exploratory well is approved, or if one of the two is denied than the process comes to a halt."

More information is on the group’s website.

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Sorry I missed the rally, but please update me on events.