BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – After hearing written and spoken requests from Brevard County residents, a meeting is set to be held on Monday to discuss a proposed expansion by SpaceX at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
SpaceX has large plans for the property it leases from KSC as it hopes to build and operate an industrial wastewater treatment facility at the site where it processes Falcon 9 first stage boosters, known as Hangar X.
The draft proposal was first filed back on February 2, 2022. It requests permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to create a facility that would “discharge up to 3,000 gallons per day of non-process potable water to a stormwater management system that, under specific conditions, discharges to a ditch leading to the Indian River Lagoon.”
After notice of the draft proposal was published in Hometown News Brevard, it drew the attention of Titusville residents, like Nathan Slusher, who went to agencies, like the Titusville City Council and the Brevard County Commission.
Following his comments during meetings of both bodies and letters sent to each, a series of letters were sent to the FDEP through February and March, calling for a public meeting on the matter.
Brevard County Commission Chair Kristine Zonka, who also represents District 5 in the county, sent a letter to the FDEP to formally call for a public meeting on the matter.
In it, she points to the voter-approved half-cent sales tax designed to fund “projects and programs to reduce pollution in the Lagoon” and that adding more stress to the IRL, even if the “additional loading input” is “small (up to 5.64 lbs/year of TN and 1.88 lbs of TP), this creates an additional burden to the Brevard County taxpayers.”
“TN” stands for “Total Nitrogen” and “TP” stands for “Total Phosphorus.”
“This burden and the associated impacts to the lagoon health are of great concern to the citizens of Brevard, many of whom have reached out to their elected officials with questions and concerns about the draft permit and the implications of this new pollution source,” Zonka wrote. “There is also public concern about the other potential pollutants including cholrine, copper, lead, iron manganese and zinc mentioned in the draft permit.”
Zonka concludes the letter highlighting the need for the now pending public meeting and stated that, given the importance of the space industry to the economy and brand of the Space Coast, there can be a solution that helps everyone.
“We are hopeful there is a solution that supports private investment in space while also protecting the Indian River Lagoon,” Zonka wrote.
Laurillee Thompson, the co-owner of Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant in Titusville also wrote a formal letter to the FDEP with similar concerns and wanted to know what safeguards would be in place.
She stated in her letter that the degradation of the IRL health has meant her family’s restaurant hasn’t been able to sell fish from the lagoon for quite some time and thinks a new source of freshwater into the estuary is a bad idea.
“Growth and development have contributed to too much freshwater going into the Indian River Lagoon, lowering the salinity of the Lagoon. How can you justify adding even more freshwater to this imperiled estuary of national significance?” Thompson wrote.
Chealsea Patridge, the supervisor of the Brevard Soil & Water Conservation District, wrote in her letter that she questions whether the proposed wastewater facility would violate the FDEP’s own rules.
She points to The North Indian River Lagoon Basin Management Action Plan that states: “Since the North IRL is an impaired water that does not currently meet state water quality standards, new development in the basin cannot increase nutrient loads to the lagoon.”
“It appears to me that this permit violates the BMAP, being that the permits allows for 3.0 mg/L of Total Nitrogen and 1.0 mg/L of Total Phosphorus,” Patridge wrote. “The BMAP also details the previously mentioned mandate for the county to reduce nutrient loads, and the total maximum daily loads.
The meeting to discuss the wastewater treatment facility is set for Monday, April 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. EDT at the Cape Canaveral Public Library. A spokesperson for FDEP said that “all public comment, including requests for a public meeting, will be reviewed and considered before taking final agency action to approve or deny the permit.”
“To ensure protection of water resources, all such facilities in Florida, including SpaceX’s are subject to discharge and monitoring requirements, which are found in the proposed permits. Water will be sampled for several parameters prior to discharging, including nutrients, metals, etc. to ensure that regulatory water quality standards are met,” the agency spokesperson said in a statement.
It's unclear at this point if a representative of SpaceX will be on hand at the meeting to answer questions in addition to representatives of FDEP.