Getting down to the core of managing our state’s water. One duo at Florida Gulf Coast University is studying the rock beneath the surface to make sure it’s a viable option for storing water in the future.
Managing water flowing in and out of Lake Okeechobee is a puzzle.
Tom Missimer Ph.D., P.G. is the executive-in-residence and professor at the U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering at FGCU.
“What we’re doing right now under a grant for the South Florida Water Management District is looking at the chemistry of rock materials that have come in collected in a core as part of the north Lake Okeechobee aquifer storage and recovery project” Missimer explained.
He said the project itself is meant to inject and store water underground, in turn helping slow the flow into Lake Okeechobee.
“You can pump billions of gallons of water into the aquifer system during wet periods, and then pump it back out during dry periods,” Missimer added, “to manage the water levels in Lake Okeechobee and the environmental flows necessary to maintain the Caloosahatchee River and the Saint Lucie Canal.”
But how do we make sure that water is safe?
He said, “The water itself that’s being injected, doesn’t have high concentrations of these metals that occur in the rock. So when that water is injected into the system, it will interact with the rock, you know, in some form, and that interaction, we want to make sure that it doesn’t create harmful return water that has concentrations that are too high. ”
Missimer, and research assistant Zoie Kassis, study core samples thanks to an X-ray fluorescence gun, to look for trace elements of mercury and arsenic.
She explained, “We all drink water and water is essential to our core being as humans, and it’s important to keep our water clean, as well as keep our water stored. During certain times of the year, we’re producing more and less water. And that storage level changes from winter and summer. So it’s essential that we are storing our water at optimum levels, so that we can then utilize it later on. ”
And the core samples also provide a glimpse into our past.
“We’ve also found some rather unique documentation of regional events. Perhaps either a volcanic eruption or a meteorite impact that we can clearly see in the core,” Missimer said.
So far, they’ve learned the potentially harmful elements in the rock, stay in the rock, meaning they won’t be removed in the recovered water.
However., they did find high concentrations in specific rock layers and say those areas may have to be avoided during construction of the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells.