In this July 2014 photo, workers install an underground pipeline to send Crystal River’s reclaimed water from the city’s sprayfield off of North Citrus Avenue to Duke Energy’s energy complex roughly eight miles away.
A solution is on the table to increase the flow of Crystal River’s reused wastewater to Duke Energy’s energy complex, keeping the city from paying a penalty and polluting its watershed.
Duke representatives told City Council at its meeting Monday, June 8, 2020, their engineers could pipe the water to the power company’s Citrus Combined-Cycle Natural Gas Plant.
Crystal River already pumps reclaimed water to Duke’s two coal units, where it’s used for pollution control, but Duke’s demand for city water is decreasing as it uses those facilities less, company spokeswoman Dorothy Pernu told the council.
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“We are pursuing a cleaner energy solution for power generation,” Pernu said. “We have made a commitment nationwide to reduce our carbon emissions.”
Crystal River has been sending Duke between 750,000 and 800,000 gallons a day (GPD) of reclaimed water since a $8 million, joint-funded project came online in July 2015 for the city to pump semi-treated water from a storage tank at its sprayfield off of North Citrus Avenue.
This project helped Duke reduce the amount of groundwater it pumped from the aquifer, and kept the city from spraying onto its 200-acre field and pollutants to runoff into nearby water systems.
Duke committed to taking reclaimed water for 20 years, with a goal to possibly receive up to 1.5 million GPD, according to its 2010 agreement with the city.
However, Pernu told council on June 8 Duke expects to lower its need for reused water down to 350,000 GPD over the next five years, but “is committed to helping the city find a solution.”
City Manager Ken Frink said the city agreed with Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) to pump at least 750,000 GPD to Duke, or else Crystal River would have to refund SWFWMD for its investment loss.
According to Crystal River, SWFWMD contributed $2.555 million toward the city’s reclaimed water project; the city paid $2.325 million, FDEP paid $1.118 million and Duke paid $2.1 million.
Frink said SWFWMD is willing to wait for the city to find a remedy.
“What they want to see is progress,” he told council members, adding the city isn't violating any terms yet.
Jeffrey Swartz, vice president of Duke power operations in Florida, told council a pipe could connect with existing reclaimed-water piping to pump water into Duke’s natural gas and coal plants, before discharging it into the Gulf of Mexico.
With this system in place, Duke could receive 750,000 GPD or more of reclaimed water from the city.
City council members were happy with Duke’s proposal.
“We’re very thankful and happy you’re able and willing to work with us and take care of this," Councilman Pat Fitzpatrick said.
Swartz said the natural gas plant already pumps 30,000 gallons of drawn water into the Gulf every minute so the added 750,000 GPD, or roughly 500 gallons per minute, will have minimal impact to the Gulf.
There are two obstacles with making this happen: funding and permitting.
“Everything we do at the site is regulated by various environmental permits," Swartz said.
Swartz said it could take between six and 12 months before Duke’s application for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit is approved, designating the city’s reclaimed water as safe to be dumped into the Gulf.
“Depending on what the permit says, we may need to do some more treatment,” he said. “Then we can finalize the cost and figure out funding sources.”