Bill Nelson letter knocks Florida DEP on landfill injection well permit
TALLAHASSEE — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) on Thursday asked federal officials to provide close scrutiny of a draft state permit involving underground injection of wastewater from a regional landfill in the Florida Panhandle.
Nelson raised the issue in a letter to the EPA, saying there was "essentially no public engagement" in issuing a draft Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit for injecting "potentially hazardous material" near drinking water supplies in Jackson County.
A Democrat from Orlando, Nelson is running for reelection in 2018 and likely will face Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
A DEP spokeswoman responded that Nelson's letter was inaccurate because a notice of draft permit had been published for public comment, but an actual draft permit had not been issued. Officials with Waste Management Inc., which requested the permit, did not respond to requests for comment.
State Sen. George Gainer, a Republican from Panama City, raised similar concerns in May about the draft permit in a letter to DEP, according to WJGH.com in Panama City Beach.
DEP on March 6 issued the notice of draft permit to Waste Management for an exploratory injection well for possible disposal of "non hazardous landfill leachate," which Nelson and other critics refer to as "garbage juice."
"Disposing of 'garbage juice' so close to the aquifer is too much of a risk," Nelson wrote. "I strongly encourage you to ensure that the Florida DEP is not putting Floridians' health and safety at risk by approving this permit."
Another permit would be required in the future before leachate injection could occur, the DEP notice said. Comment on the draft permit has been collected at several public meetings since April, DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel said.
"As is standard practice, as with any permit request submitted to DEP, we are reviewing Waste Management's application. No well has been authorized nor has any well been constructed," Engel said.
A Waste Management website that encourages public support for the project says the proposed Class I injection well will provide "safe, reliable and efficient disposal of non-hazardous landfill leachate waste generated by the Springhill facility." The landfill receives waste from surrounding counties, including Tallahassee and Leon County.
Physicians for Social Responsibility and a local NAACP branch in Jackson County also criticized the draft permit this week, according to the Jackson County Floridan.