Sunday, December 10, 2017
News Roundup

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 [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Uncertain with all the talk about potentially rebuilding if the Rays would go as far as trading franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria?So is he."I don’t know what to think, really,’’ Longoria said via text message Sunday night as t...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Sunny day floods become new norm

WASHINGTON — The tide watchers start patrolling whenever the celestial forces align. From coast to coast, hundreds of tide watchers come out with their cameras to record the latest ‘‘king tides,’’ brief episodes of tidal flooding that could become th...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tiny snowmen appear in Florida as Sunshine State gets snow

Tiny snowmen appear in Florida as Sunshine State gets snow

The "Welcome to Florida" sign in the northwest part of the state was covered in light snow as winter weather dipped into the Sunshine State. It was part of a winter storm that hit the Deep South over the weekend and left thousands of people without p...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida professional wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

Florida professional wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wrestler Rich Swann is being held without bail in a Florida jail after he was arrested and charged with battery and false imprisonment. Swann, who is 26 and a former WWE cruiserweight champion, was arrested Saturday. According to ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Updated: 4 hours ago
Getting around Cuban customs control

Getting around Cuban customs control

HAVANA, CUBA — Ernesto Machado will never forget that cold morning in 1968 at José Martí International Airport in Havana, when an immigration official seized his parents’ gold wedding bands and ripped up his passport."This is property of the revoluti...
Updated: 4 hours ago
FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

Updated: 5 hours ago
Struggling Florida citrus growers face tough decisions

Struggling Florida citrus growers face tough decisions

WINTER HAVEN — Although the 2017-18 citrus harvest has barely begun, growers are already planning for the 2018-19 season, and they have critical decisions to make in the coming months that will affect next season’s crop and perhaps others in years to...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Lions journal: Backup lineman was most unlikely of targets

Bucs-Lions journal: Backup lineman was most unlikely of targets

TAMPA — The Bucs’ unlikely comeback to erase a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter was capped by the most unlikely of targets. Tampa Bay tied the game when Jameis Winston threw a 2-yard pass to 305-pound Leonard Wester, a backup lineman who lined ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
New normal: Firefighting at Christmas; U.S. homeless population increases 1st time since 2010; Athletes, celebrities rally for bullied boy; more in U.S. news

New normal: Firefighting at Christmas; U.S. homeless population increases 1st time since 2010; Athletes, celebrities rally for bullied boy; more in U.S. news

CaliforniaNew normal: Christmas firefightingA flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday. Fire crews saved several homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze churning dee...
Updated: 6 hours ago