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GLIN==> Environmental Groups Criticize FirstEnergy Plant



Environmental Groups Criticize FirstEnergy Plant

As the Ohio EPA prepares for a public hearing Tuesday, March 3 to get public comment on a new report that evaluates options to reduce impingement and entrainment of fish at FirstEnergy’s Bay Shore Power Plant, two environmental groups called for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to fine the utility for the number of fish that are killed at the plant.

 

Sandy Bihn, director of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, and Kristy Meyer of the Ohio Environmental Council, said the utility should also have to install new protections at the plant and pay a fine that is taken from shareholder profits, not ratepayers.

 

A robbery victim is not forced to reimburse its assailant, therefore the ratepayers should not have to bear the cost of installing the best technology available, Meyer said.

 

They said the plant is located where the Maumee River meets the Maumee Bay in one of the most “ecologically sensitive and productive areas in the Great Lakes.”

 

Bihn pointed out that weekend anglers and commercial fishermen are fined when they exceed their daily catch limit, while the plant kills many more and does not have to pay anything.

 

“It appears that this plant is the largest fish killer in the Great Lakes.” Bihn said. She also said it ranks high in fish kill compared to other U.S. plants.

 

Bihn and Meyer pointed to an Ohio EPA study that estimates the plant kills more than 46 million fish each year when fish are slammed and caught (called impingement) against its cooling water intake system screens and more than 14 million juvenile fish and more than 2 billion fish in their larval form when they pass through the water intake screens and equipment inside the power plant, during the 2005-2006 sampling period.

 

The public hearing on the plant will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Wynn Elementary School in Oregon.


Story originally published in The Hannah Report on March 2, 2009.  Copyright 2009 Hannah News Service, Inc.




Ohio power plant called a fish 'killing machine'

Groups say facility kills millions every year in waters leading to Mich., call for state to step in.

Jim Lynch / The Detroit News

Conservationists are labeling a power plant near Toledo a "prodigious killing machine" for its impact on fish in Lake Erie -- many of which migrate through the Detroit River -- and calling on Ohio officials to force the company to change its operation.

First Energy's coal-fired Bay Shore power plant in Oregon, Ohio, sits near the point where the Maumee River empties into Maumee Bay. It is an area renowned as a spawning ground for fish species, particularly walleye. Many of those fish migrate through the Detroit River into Lake St. Clair and farther northward. Figures the company supplied show the plant kills 126,000 fish a day -- a number environmental groups say is unacceptable.

"To catch and then eat fish, we need a license, and there are rules and penalties that trigger when more than six walleye and 25 perch are caught in a day," said Sandy Bihn, director of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, during a teleconference Monday. "(Company) studies show that 24,000 walleye and 12,000 various size (juvenile and larval) walleye and perch, on average, are killed every day. Yet First Energy pays nothing and does little to nothing to reduce the kills."

The plant has been in operation since 1955 and features a trio of coal-fired units and one oil-fired unit. According to First Energy's Web site, the plant produces 648 megawatts of electricity, employs 202 people and contributes $1.98 million to the local tax rolls.

What it's missing, opponents say, is a cooling tower -- an addition that would greatly reduce the amount of water needed to be taken in via underground pipes from the river. That intake causes fish young and old to be trapped and killed in large numbers -- as many as 46 million a year, Bihn said.

First Energy officials, however, said the numbers being used by environmental groups are misleading. Spokesman Chris Eck said that while the plant does indeed take in 46 million fish a year through its intake pipe, far fewer are killed. Anywhere from 2 percent to 60 percent of fish survive, depending on the species in question, he said.

In addition, he said, the company is breaking no laws. "We comply fully with the regulations in our current EPA-issued permit and will continue to do so," Eck said. "There is a new (federal) rule in the works that is expected to be enacted by this fall that will impose some limitations on our impact on aquatic life. When that rule is released we will find a way to comply with that."

Members of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association and the Ohio Environmental Council want the state to fine Akron, Ohio-based First Energy and compel the company to build a cooling tower on the site. The cost of that tower should not be passed on to the energy users, they said.

"We really do feel the shareholders should have to bear the burden of that rather than the ratepayers," said Kristy Meyer, director of agricultural and clean water programs for the nonprofit Ohio Environmental Council.

 

FirstEnergy under fire for Lake Erie fish kills

By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer

FirstEnergy Corp.'s Bay Shore Power Plant near Toledo is under fire from environmentalists for killing Lake Erie fish.

In a teleconference today, the Akron-based utility was slammed for annually killing as many as 46 million fish against the plant's water intake screens and an additional 14 million juvenile fish and 2 billion larval fish that are sucked inside the plant and killed by equipment.

Kristy Meyer of the Ohio Environmental Council and Sandy Bihn of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association called for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to fine FirstEnergy for the fish kills.

About 24,000 walleye and 12,000 perchare killed every day, said Bihn. ''Yet FirstEnergy pays nothing and does little to reduce the kills. ... It's wrong. ... That plant is a massive fish-killer.''

Such a fine should be paid by company shareholders, not its electric customers, they said.

FirstEnergy complies with all applicable rules and disputes the numbers of fish killed at the Bay Shore plant, said company spokesman Chris Eck.

The plant, in the Toledo suburb of Oregon where the Maumee River empties into Lake Erie, might have killed 50,000 walleye at a time when Lake Erie anglers were permitted to catch 10 million walleye, he said.

The coal-burning plant with four boilers uses about 737 million gallons of Lake Erie water per day.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is looking at what might be done to reduce the fish kills and to eliminate the plant's warm-water discharges to Lake Erie.

Screens and barriers are among the options being looked at to reduce the fish kills. A cooling tower costing as much as $97 million is among the options for cooling the discharges to Lake Erie.

The EPA hired a contractor, Tetra Tech Inc., to analyze fish data provided by FirstEnergy from 2005-2006 and to look at the company's options.

The EPA is looking at what might be done after the company's federal discharge permit expired last January.

The agency is proceeding cautiously because it is expected that new federal rules could be adopted soon, said Ohio EPA spokeswoman Dina Pierce.

The federal rules have been suspended since 2007 because of federal court rulings.

The EPA is holding a public hearing Tuesday in Oregon on the Bay Shore permit renewal.


Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.



-- 
Kristy Meyer, M.S.
Director of Agricultural & Clean Water Programs 
The Ohio Environmental Council
1207 Grandview Ave., Ste. 201
Columbus, OH 43212
P. (614) 487-7506
F. (614) 487-7510
E. kristy@theOEC.org

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