A final rule issued on May 19th by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will specify a range of seven options that power plants (including nuclear facilities like Pilgrim) can use to reduce the two billion fish, crab, and shrimp that die annually in water intakes through impingement.
The seven alternatives are:
- operate a closed-cycle recirculating system
- operate a cooling water intake structure that has a maximum through-screen design intake velocity of 0.5 foot per second (fps)
- operate a cooling water intake structure that has a maximum through-screen intake velocity of 0.5 fps
- operate an offshore velocity cap that is installed before effective date of rule
- operate a modified traveling screen that is determined to be the best technology available for impingement reduction
- operate any other combination of technologies, management practices, and operational measures determined to be the best technology available for impingement reduction
- achieve the specified impingement mortality performance standard
Facilities that use more than 125 million gallons a day (Pilgrim uses about 510 MGD) must also perform studies to assist in adoption of conditions to protect aquatic species; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service will also require compliance and protections of Endangered Species, their prey, and critical habitats.
With regard to entrainment, the new rule contains a national BTA (“best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact”) standard that requires site-specific determination of entrainment mitigation. This is due to EPA’s assessment that there is no one technology that is BTA for entrainment at existing facilities. Instead, a number of factors might be needed, including variable speed pumps, water reuse, fine mesh screens, a closed-cycle recirculating system, or some combination of technologies that constitutes BTA. Site-specific decision-making may also lead to no additional technologies being required.
Some environmentalists are unhappy with the new rule, believing the protections are weak and EPA has essentially passed the buck to states, resigning its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. Massachusetts, however, is governed by the federal agency, and the Commonwealth is a co-signer on NPDES permits. There will be a LOT of action in the very near future relative to Pilgrim, so read up, and prepare to help us protect the species and habitat health of Cape Cod Bay.