News Feature | June 13, 2014

Can Oil Companies Drill In Everglades Without Tainting Tap Water?

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

evergladesreg

Florida residents are concerned about their drinking water as the oil industry considers bringing more drilling activity to the Everglades. 

As stakeholders debate a proposed drilling site in Southwest Florida, residents see it as a potential source of disturbances. 

"That would mean noise, dust and dozens of trucks passing each day. But [some residents] are most concerned about their drinking water, which they fear could be poisoned by toxic waste from the well," Al Jazeera America reported

Green activists are not thrilled about the idea, either. 

"Many environmental groups say they have reason to be worried given Florida’s unique geology. As part of the drilling process, millions of gallons of wastewater laced with chemicals would be injected back into the ground," the report said. 

Some oil sites are already active in this part of Florida. 

"About 25 miles from the proposed wells, around seven or eight wells pump day and night in the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve, a wetlands that is part of the greater Everglades ecosystem," the report said. 

But Florida's contribution to the oil industry is currently minimal. 

"As oil production goes, Florida isn't much of a player. The state produced less than 2 million barrels last year, which is how much oil Texas pumps from its wells each day," NPR reported.

As the oil industry considers increasing its presence in the Sunshine State, water is a major worry. 

"Our biggest concern is not the hydrogen sulfide," Jaime Duran, a local, said to NPR. "Our biggest concern is the brine, the produced waters. Every gallon of oil that they extract, they will get 20 gallons of salt water. And that salt water is toxic."

Some critics say the state is not doing enough to keep drillers out of the region. 

"Department of Environmental Protection officials earlier this week told a state judge that they have no authority to deny a Texas oil company's plans to drill in the Everglades, in an area adjoining the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge," the New Times reported

The report said that the DEP "bended" to the interests of the oil industry. 

For more energy news, check out Water Online's Produced Water Solution Center

Image credit: "American Alligator, Everglades National Park," Joe Parks © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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