Tampa Bay is home to numerous power plants that are responsible for a host of environmental ills. Atmospheric deposition of nutrients and toxins into the watershed, leaking coal ash empoundments, well as direct water pollution, habitat destruction, and devastating direct impacts to local waters and fisheries from outdated once-through cooling technology top the list.
We are currently focused on the destructive cooling water intakes. Coastal Gulf waters are busy with five of the seven worldwide species of sea turtle: Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead. Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission's website to learn more about the various species of sea turtles in Florida.
All of these species have been found dead, trapped by high flow rates, pinned against the intake screens of the state’s power plants. In many cases they died slowly, starved to death or suffocated. Thousands of sea turtles die this way every year.
The staff of Suncoast Waterkeeper, along with the entire Waterkeeper Alliance, has been actively fighting to expose the truth about coal. If the true costs of coal are considered by regulators and the public, producers will curtail or end coal burning at power plants around the world. Similarly, full consideration of the damage wrought by cooling intakes should compel the wholesale conversion from once-through cooling to closed-cycle cooling, which requires only 5% of the water and can therefore operate at much lower flow rates, allowing turtles and many other marine species to escape.
Atmospheric deposition is the source of approximately ¼ of the nitrogen load absorbed by Tampa Bay, with power plants contributing the majority or that amount. These plants add much more than nitrogen into our air and waters. NRDC lists Florida as the third worst state for toxic air pollution in the nation, with several aging plants in the Tampa region at the top of the list for worst records for releases of air toxics.
Coal-fired power plants create waste coal ash – as much as 40% of the fuel by volume remains unburned. But in this ash a number of pollutants, including mercury and several heavy metals, are found in concentration. Coal ash is unregulated, despite its toxicity – thanks to the coal lobby – and is therefore stored in ponds, landfills and abandoned mines, often without liners or the most rudimentary protections. According to the EPA, living near a wet coal ash dump is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
The new technology being employed at coal-fired plants, such as scrubbers and activated carbon capture, while helpful in terms of cleaning the air and reducing the CO2 being emitted, simply concentrate the heavy metals and other toxins in the coal ash, making it that much more of a health hazard for local communities.
We strongly oppose the continued operation of coal and nuclear power-generating stations. Even natural gas, a much cleaner-burning fuel, is problematic because of the problems associated with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
We support clean, sustainable energy, in the form of wind and sun, which is plentiful along the Suncoast. There is no excuse for not phasing out burning fossil fuels in this part of the world, when energy from the sun is nearly constant. Parking lots and rooftops provide more than enough wasted area to power every home and business in the Suncoast.