WEST PALM BEACH — A unanimous South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board last week voted to begin assuming leadership of a research program to develop wells that can prevent excess stormwater from harming the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries.
“Deep injection wells provide yet another option for reducing excess stormwater during high-water events, when no amount of storage could completely prevent harmful releases to the estuaries,” said SFWMD Governing Board Vice Chairman Jim Moran. “The operation of deep injection wells would be specific to address only extreme types of situations. As future restoration projects come online, deep injection wells will receive the modifications necessary to increase their functionality in an ever-changing water management landscape.”
At the Board’s direction, SFWMD engineers and scientists began working on a plan to work alongside the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to further explore the technology. A report is scheduled for presentation to the Board at its regular public meeting in September.
Deep injection wells have long been discussed as options to help protect the coastal estuaries. SFWMD (2007) and University of Florida (2015) studies highlighted the potential benefits.
“Deep injection wells could be part of a long-term solution to reduce damaging discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, or they could provide an interim solution until additional storage, treatment and conveyance capacity can be constructed south of Lake Okeechobee,” concluded a report by the UF Water Institute, commissioned by state Sen. Joe Negron.
These wells were originally included as part of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Planning Project, a joint cost-sharing effort between the SFWMD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the coastal estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges.
Recently, the Corps summarily dismissed the well technology from the effort.
Members of SFWMD’s volunteer citizen Water Resources Advisory Commission, which Moran chairs, urged the SFWMD Board to take action.
“Florida leads the nation in the number of deep injection wells successfully used for municipal wastewater disposal. It is very disappointing that the Corps doesn’t recognize the utility of this tool,” stated Mr. Moran.