Waste Management Inc.'s plan to shoot “garbage juice” thousands of feet underground into the Florida Aquifer has outraged environmentalists. They fear runoff from the company's Monarch Hill Landfill near Coconut Creek in unincorporated Broward County will pollute drinking water with toxins.
“I don’t want this thing going anywhere near our drinking water,” says Alissa Schafer, a Coral Springs resident. “To me especially, being an expectant mother, it makes this very personal; we might not see an immediate impact, but we need to think of what the kids born today will have to grow up with.”
“Garbage juice,” or leachate, is the runoff that pools around a landfill. It can contain high salinity, chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactive materials. For years, Waste Management has sent its leachate from Monarch Hill, colloquially known as Mount Trashmore, to the county's deep injection well about a mile away. Now the company has applied for a permit to dispose of the waste water with its own deep- water injection well.
But Waste Management denies the state’s drinking water is at risk. Last week, at a public meeting hosted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, an environmental consultant hired by Waste Management said: “While it's not pretty water, it's not hazardous water... If it [the garbage juice] migrates toward drinking water, we'll see it," according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Broward residents remain skeptical. More than a hundred showed up in opposition to the plan for a meeting at the Hampton Inn in Boca Raton. They expressed their concerns, along with Coconut Creek and county commissioners and environmentalists from the Sierra Club. They worry not just about the hazards to the drinking water but also contend the permit would allow other agencies to truck in thousands of gallons of waste water.
“They’ll be injecting unknown waste with this deep-water procedure,” says Michelle Gale, a Coconut Creek resident and environmentalist. “We’re not going to take other people’s garbage if we don’t know what this stuff is or how toxic it is.”
There are currently 35 other deep-injection wells in Broward County. They’re operated by the county or cities. Waste Management currently operates two similar deep injection wells in Miami and Okeechobee. If the permit is granted, the waste could eventually leach into the Florida or Biscayne aquifers, environmentalists claim.
“This plan jeopardizes the future drinking water of all South Florida,” Gale says. “That’s why you have people from all over Broward County speaking against this. People hate this.”
Gale reports that last Thursday’s meeting was “objectionable and offensive.” She says that residents weren’t given enough notice, that the meeting was located too far away and in another county, and that it was held in the middle of the day and so was inconvenient to people who work. Gale adds that Waste Management officials hogged the microphone and that the hundreds of people who showed up in opposition weren’t given enough time to voice their dissent. “It was a circus, and I think sixth graders could’ve done a better job,” she says.
Either way, it’s up to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to decide if another meeting is to be held. Opponents to the well can contact Neil Campbell at the DEP, whose email address is Neil.I.Campbell@dep.state.fl. and whose phone number is 850-245-8612.
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