What is Deep Well Injection? What are Estuary Protection Wells? SLR/IRL

Image courtesy of FDEP – Locations, Deep Injection Wells, South Florida 2018

“Deep Well Injection” is a term uncommon at most dinner tables. However, it is becoming more so because the South Florida Water Management District has interest in creating deep well injection “Estuary Protection Wells” around Lake Okeechobee. These wells would “lessen discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries,” hence the name. Of course there is a spin factor here as Estuary Protection Wells sounds better than Deep Well Injection that has a negative connotation, in spite of its popularity in the state of Florida.

So what is deep well injection?

In the 1930s the petroleum industry pioneered the technology, injection of liquids (produced brine from their processing) into underground formations. Over time, this procedure was adapted to many other forms of waste byproduct. According to the U.S. Environmental  Protection Agency’s website, as the popularity of injection wells expanded,  the Federal Government set protections. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act,  requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop regulatory requirements to control underground injection. These regulations are called underground injection control rules (UIC)  and continue to regulate safety of drinking water throughout the United States today. (EPA: https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1988/0477/report.pdf)

EPA website Class I DWI

For the Environmental Protection Agency deep injection wells fall into six categories:

Class I industrial and municipal waste disposal wells 
Class II oil and gas related injection wells
Class III solution mining wells
Class IV shallow hazardous and radioactive waste injection wells
Class V wells that inject non-hazardous fluids into or above underground sources of drinking water
Class VI geologic sequestration wells

Interestingly enough, again, according to EPA’s website “approximately 30 percent of Class I wells in the U.S. are municipal waste disposal wells and these wells are located exclusively in Florida. It must have something to do with Florida’s geology, or the laziness of our state to want to clean up the water. (Sorry, I could not resist.)

You can see from the 2013 map below exactly where these wells are located; a number of them are located in Martin and St Lucie Counties. Partially treated grey-water or waste water is sent thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface into a “boulder zone” where there is space to hold it and it is “separated” by geological barriers from aquifers and surface waters.  Generally it is believed this boulder zone is connected or has an outfall many miles out in the ocean and would leak ever so slowly, if it did at all, and  in a time frame so slow it would be incomprehensible to humans…. Hmmm? (https://wasteadvantagemag.com/wastewater-deep-injection-wells-for-wastewater-disposal-industries-tap-a-unique-resource/)

So if the SFWMD is able to implement Deep Well Injection, it would not be unknown technology, it would be nothing new, nothing Florida isn’t already doing ~taking the easy way out…not cleaning the water on land…

Is it laziness, just more of the same, or something to consider as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is painstakingly implemented as mentioned in the **UF Water Institute Report of 2015?

Doing the right thing is not easy, however, in the meanwhile the estuaries could totally die. Purchasing the land, insuring funding from Congress every two years, dealing with stakeholders, enduring the slow-pace of the Army Corp of Engineer’s approval process, designing Storm Water Treatment areas that don’t make anybody mad, planting the new vegetation to clean the polluted water running from industrial farms and fewer municipalities into Lake Okeechobee without wrecking the environment for another animal like a poor gopher turtle, takes a lot more time and effort…

In fact, it might be decades before things are in place…

And this is why the South Florida Water Management is considering the wells. I will not say that I agree, but as I sit here surrounded by a dead, toxic-algae filled St Lucie Estuary, I  will admit, I empathize.


Source of 2013 map: http://www.gwpc.org/sites/default/files/event-sessions/Haberfeld_Joe.pdf


*Thank you to Robert Verrastro, Lead Hydrogeologist SFWMD for meeting with me: 2017 Concept for Deep Well Injection in the Northern Everglades, SFWMD,  Verrastro & Neidrauer: https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/10856

NPS/CERP: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/cerp.htm

FDEP: https://floridadep.gov/water/aquifer-protection/content/uic-wells-classification

2018 SFWMD Estuary Protection Wells: https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/nr_2018_0824_managing_high_water

2007 SFWMD: https://www.sfwmd.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Deep%20Well%20Injection%20Feasibility%202007%20Final%20Report_0.pdf

Celeste De Palma, Director of Everglades Policy at Audubon Florida, DWI is Not an a Remedy for Water Management: https://www.news-press.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/07/07/deep-injection-wells-not-remedy-water-management/763586002/

Diverted Water From Lake O, Killing the Northern Estuaries, Florida Oceanographic: https://www.floridaocean.org/blog/index/pid/263/id/23/title/stop-killing-the-estuaries-and-everglades#.W4_XWC2ZOi4

TCPalm Gil Smart: What the Push with DWI? https://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/columnists/gil-smart/2017/06/13/gil-smart-whats-behind-push-deep-injection-wells-near-lake-o/389838001/

Brandon Tucker, SFWMD,Op Ed: http://sunshinestatenews.com/story/if-were-serious-about-clean-estuaries-we-should-be-looking-emergency-protection-wells

Sierra Club: Don’t let Governor Scott’s South Florida Water Managers throw away water needed for drinking, Everglades Restoration and agriculture! http://www.sierraclubfloridanews.org/2017/08/dont-let-governor-scotts-south-florida.html

**Pg. 107: 2015 UF Water Institute Study: https://waterinstitute.ufl.edu/research/downloads/contract95139/UF%20Water%20Institute%20Final%20Report%20March%202015.pdf

SFWMD Public Meeting Info: https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/10856

Mark Generales, News Press, Corps Wrong not to Support: Op Ed: https://www.news-press.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/06/13/army-corps-wrong-not-support-deep-injection-wells/391913001/

Sun Sentinel, Deep injection wells would waste water and money | Opinion: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-injection-wells-20170630-story.html

TC Palm: State upset over deep well injection rejection:

Everglades Trust and SFWMD DWI and communication:

Click to access Everglades_Trust_Feb%20_16_2017_email%20.pdf

Martin County. DWI and waste water: https://www.martin.fl.us/sites/default/files/meta_page_files/cares_2018_usd.pdf.

EPA explanation of Deep Well injection with visual thousands of feet underground in boulder zone: https://www.epa.gov/uic/class-i-industrial-and-municipal-waste-disposal-wells

EPA categorized: https://www.epa.gov/uic/general-information-about-injection-wells#categorized

1989 Report, History of DWI/UIC: https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1988/0477/report.pdf

Haberfield Doc with map of DWI in Fl 2013:

Click to access Haberfeld_Joe.pdf

VanVoorhees: https://www.env.nm.gov/wqcc/Matters/14-15R/Item32/007B_RobertFVanVoorhees-OverviewPublication06-15-15.pdf

Waste Water Advantage Magazine: https://wasteadvantagemag.com/wastewater-deep-injection-wells-for-wastewater-disposal-industries-tap-a-unique-resource/

EPA Class 1 Wells: https://www.epa.gov/uic/class-i-industrial-and-municipal-waste-disposal-wells#non_haz

Janicki Omni-Processor hope for a cleaner future of waste and water: https://www.janickibioenergy.com/janicki-omni-processor/how-it-works/

21 thoughts on “What is Deep Well Injection? What are Estuary Protection Wells? SLR/IRL

  1. I totally understand. You’re being objective and I too have given it thought. Anything that may help slow down the harm and great bodies of fresh water we are dealing with. I appreciate this email. TY


  2. Have you heard the idea yet of using DWI wells to pump Lake O bottom muck straight down out of sinks? Theoretically could remove the legacy sediment pollution and lower the level of the lake at same time…. Better than giving up and throwing away fresh water inflows?

  3. Didn’t the feds already approve the FPL plan to dispose of nuclear waste by injection below freshwater aquifers? I think the wording was “Not likely” [to leak]. And then there’s the fracking. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

    1. …true, and what if there is an earthquake or artificial accident that disturbs the separation boundaries? Moreover, the fluids injected need to be nonacidic and
      ph neutral, or they will accelerate the dissolving of the calcium structure underground and create more sinkhole problems above ground.

  4. I read a quote(by Ronald Reagon) on Rhett Morris blog.It said the scaryiest words in the English language are—-I’m from the government and I came to help—- If they are injecting dirty water into the aquifer as it pushes its way to the surface it is going to go through layers of calcium carbonate. May this calcium carbonate comeing to the surface is what is makeing the algae “fingers” shown in the pictures.

  5. I have helped install deep well injection systems many years ago. They pulled water out and ran it through heat exchangers to cool electrical equipment and then injected hot water deep underground. Water does NOT compress. The high pressure is going to flow toward the places of lower pressure. The town of Palm Bay(where I live) gets Its drinking water from deep underground. This pumping creates a low or negitive pressure . Layers of hard calcium carbonate are going to keep water from pushing toward the lower pressure of the surface. Places where earth quakes have cracked these layers may leave places where water could push to the surface and create algae fingers like in the pictures of the next blog. I like the saying a picture is worth a thousand words . These algae formations sure look like it could be calciums carbonate sand pushing toward the surface through fractures in the underground layers of rock and sand

    1. DWI proponents seem to think the boulder zone “safely” pushes water out to sea. My first instinct is that we can’t even manage the surface water, how can we be so certain we can control what goes 3,000 feet down? Which is why I instinctively would like oppose it. It’s a panic button that just kicks the pollution down the road for future generations to clean up… But getting rid of that Lake O bottom muck, by any means, sure does sound enticing….

      1. …I think (I’m not a Hydrologist) the principle here is Osmosis. Freshwater naturally flows/pushes toward the saltwater and keeps it from creeping in from the ocean. The key is that the injected liquid has to be ph neutral, or it will further dissolve (more than just acid rain) the calcium carbonate layers below and cause more sink holes above ground.

  6. The definition of estuary is where a fresh water river meets the sea. I do not know where everyone gets the idea of a salt water estuary, Menhadden get their start in fresh(brackish) water. EVERYTHING depends on this fish for food. The only thing people who work for our state gov. are really really good at is killing and destroying everything. I am sure they probably tooki bribe money from a water bottleing company to pump aluminimium sulfate into the ground and destroy our aqifer.

  7. I work with a guy who said he just came from a waste water job in Belle Glade. He said a 40 inch diamiter pipe pumped around 8.5 million gallons a day 800 foot down. In 100 days thats 800 million gallons. This waste water just adds up year after year. He allso said Miami produces about 150 million gallons of waste watter a day

Leave a Reply