EPA will Require PSNH to Build Cooling Towers at Merrimack Station | Conservation Law Foundation

EPA will Require PSNH to Build Cooling Towers at Merrimack Station

Karen Wood

Merrimack Station Coal Plant. Photo credit: flickr/Jim Richmond

New England’s old coal-burning power plants don’t just pollute the air. With their obsolete cooling technology, they also create havoc in the water bodies on which they reside. To control heat from the coal-combustion process, these coal plants draw millions of gallons of water daily into their antiquated cooling systems, killing the aquatic life that gets sucked in with it, and then discharge the super-heated, chemical-laden  water back into the fragile rivers and bays, where it creates untenable living conditions that destroy native fish and other species.

Under decades of pressure from CLF and other organizations, EPA has tightened its regulations around water intake and discharge at the region’s coal plants. At the GenOn Kendall Power Plant in Cambridge, MA, as a result of a lawsuit brought by CLF and the Charles River Watershed Association, EPA required last February that the plant owner, TriGen Corporation, build a “closed-cycle” cooling system that will reduce the water withdrawal and discharge of heated water into the Charles River by approximately 95%. Brayton Point in  Fall River, MA will finish construction of its new cooling towers in 2012, dramatically reducing its harmful impacts on Great Hope Bay.

Today, in another giant step forward, EPA issued a draft NPDES permit for Merrimack Station in Bow, NH, where heated discharge from the power plant’s old “once-through” cooling system has caused a 94 percent decline of the kinds of species that once lived in that part of the Merrimack River. CLF applauded the draft permit, which will require Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) to install and operate year-round a modern cooling system that will decrease the plant’s discharge of heated water by nearly 100 percent.

In a statement, issued today in response to the release of the draft permit, CLF called the requirements “long overdue.” Jonathan Peress, director of CLF’s Clean Energy and Climate Change program, said, “No matter what PSNH spends, it will not be able to turn this 50-year-old dinosaur into an economically-viable generating facility that benefits the people of New England. Still, as long as this plant remains in operation, it must comply with the law and we commend EPA for holding PSNH accountable.” Read the full statement here.

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