Cooling tower resolution passes
The measure was intended to protect fish from being killed in industrial cooling-water intakes. Environmentalists say the resolution is the culmination of years of work to educate the public and lawmakers on the environmental impacts of cooling systems.
The final resolution calls for Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) officials to determine whether it should require closed-cycle cooling systems on all facilities operating on Delaware waters, and urges the department to label closed-cycle cooling one of the best technologies available for cooling systems.
Maya van Rossum, director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said scientists recognize closed-cycle cooling systems as the systems to reduce fish kills. She said closed-cycle cooling units cut the number of aquatic animals killed by cooling systems by 90 percent to 95 percent.
Rep. William Oberle, R-Beecher’s Lot, sponsored the resolution, which said the deaths of millions of fish and crabs per year is detrimental to Delaware’s economy, recreation and tourism.
Co-sponsor Sen. George Bunting, D-Bethany Beach, is pleased the resolution passed, but he criticized the amount of money lobbyists spent fighting the measure.
Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, co-sponsored the resolution. He has said endorsement of closed-cycle cooling systems from the Center for the Inland Bays helped raise awareness of the fish-kill issue. He also said he would have liked the resolution to have time limits.
Chris Bason, science and technical coordinator for the Center for the Inland Bays, agreed with Schneider. “The resolution and the support from legislators and a wide array of stakeholders shows the watershed is deeply concerned about the impacts and really wants them addressed,” he said. The resolution sends a clear message, he said.
Center staff members testified about how the systems affect aquatic life and habitat during legislative hearings on the resolution.
Bason reported at a pollution-discharge hearing for the Indian River power plant more than a year ago that a consultant report that said millions of fish perish in that plant’s water intakes each year justified the destruction by comparing the loss of Inland Bays fish to the entire Atlantic fishery. That permit has been administratively extended by state environmental officials for 17 years.
Bason said while the deaths of fish and crabs at intakes is detrimental to the food web of the bays, the habitat destruction from the discharge of used, heated cooling water is equally harmful to the environment. It causes the loss of critical nursery habitat and can change the types of organisms that inhabit an area, he said. “It’s great. We showed that the legislative members are concerned about the issue and our natural resources and want to protect them. Our goal was to inform people and we succeeded,” said Richard Schneider, who spearheaded the effort to see House Concurrent Resolution 7 passed. Schneider campaigned on behalf of a similar measure last year.
Katherine Bunting-Howarth, director of DNREC’s water resources division, said department Secretary Collin O’Mara is currently reviewing a pollution-discharge permit for NRG Energy’s Indian River power plant, which is related to closed-cycle cooling systems. Because of that pending decision, she said she could not comment on the resolution.
Cooling water basics
• Once-through cooling towers take in water – Indian River power plant uses Island Creek – and use it to cool machinery before discharging the heated water back to its source.
• Closed-cycle cooling systems recycle the same water and only take in water to replace what is lost by evaporation. Closed-cycle systems have long been hailed by environmentalists as the preferred method for cooling power plants with minimal harm to waterways and aquatic life.