Overseeing environmental compliance
at Duke Energy’s Hines Energy Complex is no easy task. There are traditional responsibilities in maintaining compliance with state and federal regulations, but there are also nontraditional tasks like keeping alligators and snakes from entering the plant.
That’s right. Alligators and snakes are part of the natural landscape at the Hines Plant. On any given day, Environmental Compliance Manager Tommy O’Neal might go from checking the pH levels in the cooling pond to relocating an Eastern Diamondback snake to a safer area of the property. Don’t worry – he has his safety equipment with him.
“Some mornings, I have to go around the site to check on things,” said O’Neal. “While I’m out there with a cup of coffee watching the sun come up, I can often see eagles catch their morning breakfast. I think my office view is better than the CEO’s. Can she say she watches eagles catch fish?”
Nestled on about 8,000 acres of land in Polk County, the Hines Energy Complex is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Several years ago, the state of Florida estimated that there were about 2,000 alligators at Hines. It’s very common to see them swimming in the cooling ponds where the plant boasts a thriving ecosystem. The warm waters of the cooling ponds allow for the algae, tilapia (algae eaters) and alligators (tilapia eaters) to grow year-round.
Working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state monitors the alligator population and, when necessary, will remove some alligators from the property. And 2,000 alligators can produce a lot of eggs. Last year, the commission collected more than 1,000 alligator eggs which they will raise and sell for commercial use.