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|The state Department of Environmental
Conservation has never required the improvements, and
for the past twelve years has not even bothered to renew
the permits as the law mandates. Instead, DEC has deferred
to industry offers to provide more ecological information
and install marginal protective measures.
for Closed-Cycle Cooling:
End the last unaddressed industrial impact on the Hudson
By Susan Cleaver
Power plants in Orange, Westchester and Rockland Counties withdraw
billions of gallons each day from the biologically rich tidal Hudson
River to cool themselves, killing virtually all aquatic life in
this massive volume. Hardest hit are the eggs and larvae which form
the base of the fish populations and a key link in the food chain,
but which die in the billions annually when sucked into the facilities.
Millions of adult fish also die when pinned on the screens used
to exclude debris from the intakes.
The destruction is entirely unnecessary, since commonly used “closed
cycle” cooling would eliminate 95 percent of the mortality
by recycling the water. Moreover, the 1972 Clean Water Act requires
the facilities to use the best cooling technology available to minimize
environmental damage. However, the state Department of Environmental
Conservation has never required the improvements, and for the past
twelve years has not even bothered to renew the permits as the law
mandates. Instead, DEC has deferred to industry offers to provide
more ecological information and install marginal protective measures.
Now, after more than 20 years of study, state scientists have recognized
the obvious: the massive mortality damages the River’s ecosystem.
Governor Pataki publicly affirmed the need to “break the nexus
between power plant generation and massive use of water" including
retrofitting the existing plants, but DEC’s track record does
not inspire confidence. After years of delay the agency is grudgingly
reassessing the technology at the Danskammer plant in Newburgh and
Indian Point in Buchanan as a result of court orders obtained by
environmental advocates and public officials. But DEC’s draft
renewal permit would allow Danskammer to continue its destructive
once through cooling. Environmental advocates have already called
for a public hearing on the weak permit.
With a court order to issue a draft permit for Indian Point –
which withdraws up to 2.5 billion gallons per day, by far the largest
single impact on the Hudson – by November 14, DEC must reorder
its priorities to protect the River as the law requires and as the
Governor specified. After more than thirty years since the enactment
of the Clean Water Act, twenty years of inconclusive studies and
ten years with no permit review whatsoever, it’s time to end
the last unaddressed industrial impact on the Hudson.