U.S. Water News Online
TAMPA, Fla. -- The nation's first sea water desalination
plant built to serve as a primary source of drinking water is
expected to begin providing water for residents here by the end of
It is expected to reach full capacity by March, generating 25
million gallons a day of drinking water, officials say.
The plant, located at Tampa Electric Co.'s Big Bend power plant
site on Tampa Bay, is a key part of the regional utility's plan to
reduce wellfield pumping.
``That's why we want to get the plant operating as soon as
possible,'' said Ken Herd, project manager for Tampa Bay Water.
The plant will draw the 44 million gallons of water it will use
each day from the cooling water used for Tampa Electric's generators.
The sea water is pushed through a series of filters then passes
through membranes, leaving millions of gallons of fresh water and
millions of gallons of brine. The brine, which is about twice as
salty as the original sea water, flows back into the power plant's
cooling water canal, where it is diluted.
Members of Save Our Bay Air and Canals, a group of mostly Apollo
Beach residents who lost a legal bid to force the plant's owners to
find another way to dispose of the brine, say they will be watching
for any environmental problems.
Tampa Bay Water has tightened monitoring of the plant, and a $1
million program to detect whether the plant's operation is harmful to
marine life is in place.
``If we saw significant effects which we didn't expect, we would
cut back production or shut down the plant until we find out what's
happening,'' Herd said.
A half-dozen studies show the plant shouldn't have any adverse
impact on the Bay's salinity or sea life.
Texas and California will also be watching the plant's progress as
officials in those states consider whether to move ahead with
desalination plants of their own, said Neil Callahan of R.W. Beck
Inc., a consultant for Tampa Bay Water.
Key West has had a desalination plant for years, and one was built
in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1992. Both are much smaller, and are
used only for emergency supplies.
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