In the last decade the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant on Hutchinson Island in Florida has sucked in over 4,100 sea turtles. That’s an average of over one a day.
There are three pipes that run a quarter of a mile from the ocean to a canal on State Road A1A that are responsible for this unwanted detour.
After nine years, the approval process for grates that would partially block the pipes, keeping an estimated 23% of turtles that get sucked into the plant each year from being forced into the dangerous journey.
When asked why more turtles couldn’t be blocked by the grate from entering the pipes, Michael Bresette, president of Inwater Research Group, a nonprofit FPL hired to monitor the canal and remove turtles said, “f you put mesh that would exclude every turtle, you would risk water flow.”
The approval process only gained real headway after a second scuba diver – that’s right, one wasn’t enough – got sucked into the pipes. The scuba diver, Christopher Le Cun, recounts his experience to the Palm Beach Post, saying “I swam right up to this big structure and it looks like a building underwater. I felt a little bit of current. All of a sudden it got a little quicker and I said, ‘this ain’t right, this ain’t right.”
The grate will be the first attempt at blocking the pipes from sucking in endangered species and turtles since the plant opened in 1976 – over 16,000 turtles have been sucked in over the past 40 years.
While this sounds like these sea turtles are getting sucked into a giant turtle blender, with no chance of surviving, most escape with minor bumps and cuts. While there isn’t sufficient data on exactly how many turtles have been killed, TCPalm reported in 2001 that 0.8% of 8,832 turtles who entered the pipes died as a result.