Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater's new water plant will use deep well to dispose of brine

CLEARWATER — Clearwater is moving closer to producing nearly all of its own water as it prepares to build a second reverse osmosis water treatment plant.

The facility, projected to open by the end of next year, will treat millions of gallons of slightly salty water per day through a process that purifies water by removing salt and other materials.

The $34 million plant, set to begin construction in June, will be able to produce a maximum of 6.25 million gallons per day, although it will pump out about 5 million gallons on an average day, said Nan Bennett, assistant director of public utilities.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District will provide $15.2 million for the project. City water revenue will cover the rest.

The new plant will help contain costs by nearly eliminating the need to purchase water from Pinellas County Utilities, which currently supplies slightly less than half of the city's water needs, said Tracy Mercer, the city's utilities director.

"When you have the middleman, you keep adding costs," Mercer said.

Reverse osmosis treatment is more expensive than the traditional method of pumping directly from the ground, Mercer said, but increased regulation and testing requirements will eventually add to the cost of producing water that way.

City planners think that, over the long term, reverse osmosis will be more cost-effective.

Currently, Clearwater produces an average of 5.9 million gallons per day. Once the new facility opens, the city will have to purchase water only during peak days such as festivals or other heavy-use periods.

Unlike the city's first reverse osmosis plant, which opened in 2002, the new plant's by-product or "concentrate" won't be sent to a wastewater treatment plant to be turned into reclaimed water — it's too salty.

Instead, it will be injected into a well nearby that extends about 1,000 feet underground.

Use of deep well injection has been controversial, with some environmental advocates raising concerns that brackish concentrate could harm the Floridan aquifer, which supplies much of the state's drinking water.

The well is deep enough that it will inject the concentrate below the aquifer into salt water, which makes it unlikely to migrate to layers of fresh water, said Bennett.

The city will monitor the wells and has several levels of oversight, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Bennett said.

"We have all kinds of testing requirements," she said.

Clearwater utility officials were eager to emphasize the "green aspects" of the plant. A "cool" roof made with heat-reduction materials to save energy along with energy-efficient fixtures and landscaping, among other environmentally sustainable features, have been included in the design, Bennett said.

William Conlon, a Land O'Lakes consulting engineer who was project manager for Florida's first deep well injection in Sarasota County in the early 1980s, agreed the process is safe.

"It's very well regulated by a technical advisory committee with safety in mind. You can determine if something has gone awry," Conlon said, through the monitoring of well pressure, monitoring wells and analysis done every five years. "You're placing brackish water down through five confining layers into water saltier than sea water."

Times staff writer Craig Pittman and Times news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Charlie Frago can be reached at (727) 445-4159 or You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago. To write a letter to the editor, visit

Clearwater's new water plant will use deep well to dispose of brine 05/10/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 6:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries


    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?



    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.