FirstEnergy’s Bayshore power plant will be required to install technology to reduce fish kills at the plant’s intake system.
“Ohio EPA has decided, for the first time, FirstEnergy will be required to install technology that is designed to minimize fish mortality,” said Dina Pierce, Ohio EPA’s northwest district coordinator.
The plant will install devices called “reverse louvers,” she said.
“Once those are in place, FirstEnergy will be required to study the effectiveness of the devices,” said Pierce. “If the study proves the technology effective, then the company will have to permanently install the devices. If the study shows the technology is not effective, then Ohio EPA will require the company to pursue another solution to the fish impingement and entrainment problem.”
The fish impingement and entrainment issue is particularly important at this location near where the Maumee River drains into the Maumee Bay because it is a very productive fish spawning area, according to Pierce.
FirstEnergy conducted detailed studies on I&E and on the thermal plume created by heated water discharged into the Maumee Bay from the plant’s cooling system. Ohio EPA asked an independent environmental engineering firm, Tetra Tech, to examine FirstEnergy’s studies and the technologies available to reduce the Bayshore intake system’s impact on fish and determine which ones would work best at the plant. Ohio EPA also held a public information meeting in Oregon in March, 2009 to review the studies and get feedback from the public.
Millions of fish, their eggs and larvae are captured or killed each year by cooling water intake systems at the nation’s power plants, including the Bayshore facility, according to Pierce. Impingement occurs when fish and shellfish are trapped against the plant’s cooling water intake screens while entrainment occurs when fish eggs and larvae are drawn into the cooling water system. The federal Clean Water Act requires facilities to use the best technology available to minimize adverse environmental impacts.
The reverse louver system includes a guiding wall to divert the fish safely through the channel, said Pierce. It will include a fine mesh screen behind the louvers to divert entrained organisms, such as fish eggs and larvae.
According to a 2005-2006 Bayshore company report, 46 million fish are trapped against the plant’s cooling water intake screens, and 2.5 billion larval fish are drawn into the cooling water system.
It is estimated that one million pounds of fish are lost per year.
The Maumee River is the Great Lakes “fishiest river,” and is the best walleye spawning river in the world, according to Oregon Councilman Sandy Bihn, Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper.
“Lake Erie has more consumable fish than all the other Great Lakes combined,” she said.
The Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, which has been urging the Ohio EPA to address the issue at the plant for the last several years, would like to see the Ohio EPA require FirstEnergy to take bolder action to reduce fish kills.
Among the Association’s suggestions:
• Build cooling towers at the plant that will reduce fish kills and thermal impacts by 90 percent;
• Require Bayshore to shut down three of its four units in the spring spawning season to reduce fish kills;
• Require power plants to count and report fish kills.
• Make payments to a Western Lake Erie Fishery Trust based on the value of the fish kills until the cooling towers are built.
Bihn said Bayshore should be fined and penalized for the fish kills until the problem is resolved.
“Walleye numbers are declining and the forage fish killed at the Bayshore plant are an important part of the food chain. Fishing is an economic resource creating thousands of jobs and yielding hundreds of millions in taxes,” said Bihn.
“Now, Ohio EPA proposes to let Bayshore take years to put in louvers when Ohio EPA knows the best available technology to reduce the kills by 90 percent is cooling towers,” added Bihn. “That is why there is a cooling tower at Davis Besse and a cooling tower at Enrico Fermi. The state of New York just ordered in cooling towers at Indiana Point on the Hudson River to reduce the fish kills. Several smaller towers have been proposed at Bayshore. Ohio EPA needs to require Bayshore to put in the towers and meaningfully reduce the fish kills to increase the economic opportunities that an abundant fishery creates.”
Pierce said a cooling tower is the most expensive option considered by the Ohio EPA, upwards of $100 million, which would result in a rate increase of 3 percent to 6 percent to FirstEnergy customers.
“…a potentially significant increase, especially for businesses, schools, hospitals, etc., who already pay thousands of dollars a month in electric bills. The evaluation of the reverse louver system indicates it will be effective in reducing fish kills while also being cost effective for the company, and therefore its customers,” said Pierce.
The Ohio EPA will hold a public hearing on Thursday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Clay High School auditorium, 5665 Seaman Road, to accept public comments on a draft wastewater discharge permit for the Bayshore power plant.
The discharge consists primarily of the plant’s non-contact cooling water, according to Pierce. The permit sets limits on contaminants in the plant’s discharge to Lake Erie’s Maumee Bay. The draft permit action is a proposed renewal of the plant’s existing wastewater discharge permit, which is valid for five years and must be renewed to remain valid.
The draft permit also imposes requirements on the plant’s cooling water intake system that are expected to reduce mortality that results from the impingement and entrainment (I&E) of fish in the intake structure.
The draft permit would require FirstEnergy to evaluate options for reducing I&E at the facility and choose an option that will reduce impingement by 80 percent and entrainment by 60 percent. The company will be required to write a report on its evaluation of available technology and submit it to the Ohio EPA for review by July 1, 2011. Construction of the remedy must be completed by October 1, 2014.
Ohio EPA will accept written comments on the draft permit through April 29. Anyone may submit written comments or request to be placed on a mailing list for information by writing to Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Permits Processing Unit, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049. The application and other related materials are available for review at Ohio EPA’s Northwest District Office in Bowling Green by calling (419) 352-8461.
The draft permit and a fact sheet are available online at http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/permits/bayshore.aspx.
“We want citizens to look at the proposal in the draft permit and give us feedback at the public hearing,” said Pierce. “Ohio EPA is committed to addressing the fish mortality issue in both an environmentally and cost effective manner.”