Last week, I went on a boat ride the St. John's River out of Jacksonville with Lisa Rinaman, the St. John's Riverkeeper. They took me to see the JEA Northside Power Plant, which is an older plant and according to the Clean Water Fund is one of the top seven plants in Florida for generating coal ash and for negatively impacting our water through permitted and accidental releases of aluminum, arsenic, beryllium, chloride, and other toxic substances.
The JEA complex is a huge megalopolis, with many workers and ships providing the coal needed to fuel this plant.
The smoke stacks are part of an older plant and lacks the modern scrubbers they have installed on the newer adjacent plant. According to an Environment Florida Research & Policy Center report issued in 2013, Florida ranks 3rd in the country for most carbon pollution from power plants, which are the state’s largest single source of global warming pollution. Given the critical issue of sea level rise that the State is facing all along its coastal communities, it would seem imperative that the carbon pollution released from these plants be reduced and alternative sources of energy found as quickly as possible.
This dirty coal burning plants also borders the Timucuan Ecological Preserve, a 46,000-acre National wetlands and salt marsh preserve that provides habitat for many diverse ecological communities. The discharges of cooling water used by coal fired plants into rivers and streams causes serious distress to marine life by upsetting their natural habitat.
The images above is the water being put back into the river after being used for cooling. Many toxic chemicals
This photo tells a profound story of how the continued operation of coal fired power plants, especially the older ones, affects people with lesser means and those who depend on sustenance fishing. The continued operation of these plants and the pollution of our waters in general often have a greater impact on the socio-economically disadvantaged, because they don't have the resources to live near or travel to cleaner waters, or to pay for fish that is not from toxic areas. There is a bait and tackle store providing what the fishermen need, who are lined up on the dock or sitting under the beach umbrella that seems oddly out of place here.
To convey that none of us are exempt from the effects of coal fired plants and polluted waterways, I am ending this post with an image of commercial crab fisherman checking their traps right above the discharge point. The crabs from these traps will likely find their way into restaurants or fish stores where you or I might buy and eat them and in the process consume the toxic chemicals that they have ingested.