Tag Archives: Environmental Protection Agency

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/

Understanding Point and Non-Point Pollution, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides "run-off" crops during a rain storm. This is an example of non-point pollution. Lynda Betts, United States Dept. of Agriculture. (Photo, public domain.)
Fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides “run-off” crops into a canal during a rain storm. This is an example of “non-point pollution.” Lynda Betts, United States Dept. of Agriculture. (Photo, public domain.)

There are many types of pollution that affect the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon but two words you will hear over and over are “point” and “non-point pollution.” These are important words to understand especially today as we fight to save our rivers.

Point pollution is basically pollution that you can pin-point coming out of a “pipe.” Point pollution is associated with industry. For instance, a waster water treatment plant that has a pipe releasing into the river is point pollution. In the late 1800s and early 1900s some residences, businesses and industries just let their pollution and or sewage go directly into the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. Yuk!

This practice improved with the advent of sewer systems, septic and organized cities but there were/are still direct pipes releasing very unclean water until very recently. Recognizing the impacts of discharges from wastewater treatment plants, the Florida Legislature passed the Indian River Act (Chapter 90-262) in 1990 requiring waste water treatment plants to cease discharging their effluent, somewhat processed poop,  into the lagoon. Because it was easy to pinpoint exactly where these industrial wastewater points are/were located, it is fairly easy to regulate them.

The lagoon and we have befitted from the Indian River Act 90-262 but we still have problems.

Non-point pollution, unlike point source pollution,  is pollution that is hard to pin-point because it is coming from “everywhere.” On average it rains 50 inches each year along the Treasure Coast. Highways, parking lots, people’s yards, leaky septic tanks, and agriculture all combine to create a cocktail of oils, heavy metals, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, viruses, bacteria and other pollutants that run from flowing rain water into area canals and then straight into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

To complicate things more, cities and counties can regulate residential  applications (for instance many have recently passed strict fertilizer ordinance outlawing the use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer application during rainy season,) but cities are not allowed  to regulate agriculture even if is located in their city or county.

Agriculture is exempt from such laws. Agriculture is regulated and overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture recognizing the need to abate fertilizer and chemical runoff does promote “best management practices,” helping farmers work to lower phosphorus and nitrogen runoff but this is voluntary and not required. Most farmers do comply but it is not easy to judge and measure so agriculture runoff continues to significantly add to river pollution across our nation and state as we know from our C-44 canal that dumps mostly agriculture basin runoff into our rivers.

You will often hear people say, “We must stop pollution at the source!” This is a good idea and our state and federal agencies are doing it with point source pollution but not with non-point source pollution.

Perhaps one day every yard and every agriculture field will have to take a portion of their land to hold rain runoff so the pollutants seep into the earth before they go to our waterways? Perhaps one day the Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agencies will become more hard-core rather than coming up with programs like TMDLs and BMP–Total Maximum Daily Loads for phosphorus and nitrogen and Basin Management Action Plans, because although those will help over time, like 30 years, we don’t seem to have a lot of time left.


Point Source Pollution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_source_pollution)
Non Point Pollution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonpoint_source_pollution)
Best Management Practices (http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/bmps.html)
TMDL/BMAPS FDEP (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/tmdl/)
IRL Study Guide, pg. 11 Point/Non Point Pollution: (http://t.co/LqUx4eqxS1)