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December 17, 2007
EPA, Brayton Point plant reach pact on cooling water
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it has reached a settlement in which the owner of the coal-burning power plant in Somerset, Mass., Dominion Energy Brayton Point, LLC, has agreed to install a new cooling system that will significantly reduce the amount of heated water discharged by the plant into Mount Hope Bay.
The settlement, which was reached late this afternoon, brings to a close several years of efforts by state officials in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and environmental groups, such as Save The Bay and the Conservation Law Foundation, to address the dramatic drop in fish population that has occurred in Mount Hope Bay.
As part of the agreement, Dominion has agreed to drop lawsuits it filed to fight a permit the EPA issued in 2003 that called for the Brayton Point power plant to dramatically reduce its intake of water from Mount Hope Bay and significantly reduce the amount of heated water discharged.
The company has now agreed to abide by the terms of that permit, as well as a timetable for constructing building the new cooling system: within 36 months of the company getting all the necessary permits. The EPA said that the new system could be in place as early as the spring of 2012.
The company intends to install a “closed cycle” cooling system in which it will continually reuse the same water to cool steam produced by the power plant. That will cut the plant’s total water intake from Mount Hope Bay to an average of 56 million gallons per day, and reduce the amount of heat it discharges into the bay by 96 percent.
-- Journal business writer Timothy C. Barmann
The facility now withdraws up to 1 billion gallons of water a day, heats the water by about 30 degrees and discharges it back into the bay. The amount of water the plant uses each year is equal to seven times the volume of Mount Hope Bay. Scientists have concluded that the process of sucking water in from the bay kills small fish and fish eggs. And the plume of warm water kills or drives away fish as well, they say.
But officials are already conceding that one part of the agreement may not be popular with people who live near the power plant.
The new towers will resemble cooling towers often associated with nuclear power plants. Two hour-glass shaped structures will be up to 450 feet high, the height of the existing smoke stacks at the plant, the EPA said.
“As is the case with all settlements, this settlement comes with a cost,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch.
“There is no question that the height of the towers will be aesthetically unpleasant for the people who live in communities on Mount Hope Bay. In our analysis, however, the benefit of literally ‘saving the bay’ outweighs this cost.”
But overall, state officials and environmental groups hailed the agreement.
Posted by Andrea Panciera at 7:04 PM | Permalink
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