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. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]