I know we have talked about this before. I just didn't know how big of a problem it was!
Regulators plan to push industries to upgrade cooling systems
January 14, 2007, 2:33 PM EST
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) _ State regulators plan to push for expensive changes to the cooling systems for a few industrial sites along the Delaware River, which are blamed for killing tens of billions of aquatic organisms each year.
Alarming studies in recent years have provided environmental groups with ammunition to push for changes to the cooling systems, which continuously pump in and discharge river water.
The giant intakes draw trillions of gallons of water from stretches of the river that include nursing and feeding grounds for striped bass, weakfish and other valuable aquatic life.
"The river and bay simply cannot sustain this kind of day-in and day-out destruction," said Tracy Carluccio, a staff member for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Carluccio's group and several others sued the Environmental Protection Agency last year for failing to control damage from some cooling water intakes.
The intakes at the Salem nuclear power complex, Conectiv's Edge Moor power plant, the Valero refinery in Delaware City and Conectiv's Deepwater, N.J., plant destroy roughly 607 million year-old fish annually _ a federal estimate based on industry reports.
If fish eggs, larvae and other organisms are added, the number killed rises into the tens of billions.
The best alternatives to intakes are massive water-cooling towers that recycle and reuse water, dramatically reducing the number of fish that are killed. But those would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to install, and that cost could be passed on to customers.
Regulators are leaning on the plants' operators to consider alternatives to the intake water cooling systems.
EPA water resources director Evelyn McKnight told The (Wilmington) News Journal that her agency has targeted Conectiv's plant and Valero's refinery for renewal of long-outdated permits. That permitting process is carried out by the state.
Delaware regulators said they plan to push the companies during the renewal process to consider installing cooling towers.
John Hughes, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said his agency has urged both Valero and Conectiv to consider cooling systems that spare more fish.
"We've got a strong argument. I've made the argument personally at the highest levels with Valero that ... they need to look at cooling water as a major investment issue," Hughes said.
The EPA estimated in 2002 that the refinery intakes destroy 775,879 pounds of weakfish annually. Counting egg and larval losses, the EPA estimated that the same refinery cost the river 662,871 pounds of striped bass _ more than four times the number taken by rod and reel or net in 2003.
"There hasn't really been a significant change to the intake system at the refinery, I don't believe, since the mid-60s at least," said Roy Miller, who directs state fish and shellfish programs. "It's high time."
Attempts by The News Journal to reach Valero officials for comment on the company's plans were unsuccessful.
The impact of the intake systems is not just environmental, but economic. Annual economic damages from the river's four largest power plants are estimated at $49 million, according to one Environmental Protection Agency study.
"The final estimates may well underestimate the full ecological and economic value of these losses," an EPA research office reported in 2002.
Information from: The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal, http://www.delawareonline.com