“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)
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.
*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
2018 SFWMD Estuary Protection Wells: https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/nr_2018_0824_managing_high_water
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/
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:
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
1989 Report, History of DWI/UIC: https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1988/0477/report.pdf
Haberfield Doc with map of DWI in Fl 2013:
AN OVERVIEW OF INJECTION WELL HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Waste Water Advantage Magazine: https://wasteadvantagemag.com/wastewater-deep-injection-wells-for-wastewater-disposal-industries-tap-a-unique-resource/
Janicki Omni-Processor hope for a cleaner future of waste and water: https://www.janickibioenergy.com/janicki-omni-processor/how-it-works/