Conservation Consortium Challenges Coal Plant Fish-Kills in Ohio

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Sandy Bihn, Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, 419-691-3788; Josh Mogerman, NRDC, 312-651-7909; MacKenzie Bailey, Sierra Club, (614) 461-0734; Trent Dougherty, Ohio Environmental Council, 614-487-7506; Lyman Welch, Alliance for the Great Lakes, 312-939-0838 x230

Conservation Consortium Challenges Coal Plant Fish-Kills in Ohio

FirstEnergy Bayshore plant purees 60 billion fish annually

OREGON, Ohio - A coalition of local and national
conservation groups has filed a legal challenge to recently issued Ohio
EPA permits allowing FirstEnergy's antiquated Bayshore coal plant to
continue destroying millions of Lake Erie's fish rather than install
modern equipment.  Bayshore sits in Lake Erie's Maumee Bay, one of the
most important spawning grounds and fisheries in the world supporting a
$1.4 billion annual commercial and recreational fishing economy. The
suit would force FirstEnergy to install cooling towers, which would
reduce the fish losses by 95%. The federal Clean Water Act requires
companies to use the best available technology to reduce their
environmental impacts, but Ohio EPA is allowing Bayshore to install a
solution that Ohio EPA's own consultants have already shown to be less
effective.

"It is time for FirstEnergy to reduce the massive fish
kills in Maumee Bay," said Sandy Bihn, Executive Director of the Western
Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association.  "Beyond the fish sucked in and
churned through the plant, it discharges heated water that kills even
more fish and places heavy stress on the ecosystem. The heated water
likely contributes to the growth of the toxic algae that is choking this
part of the lake and threatening businesses and jobs dependant on a
healthy Lake Erie."

Lake Erie's walleye population is one of the most valuable
for fishermen but has been on the decline. This fall when the Bayshore
plant shut down some of its operations and reduced water use from 750 to
184 million gallons a day, many fisherman observed a massive increase
in the population of the walleye forage fish, gizzard shad, leading some
to believe that reducing fish kills at the plant would likely help
reverse the downward trend for walleye and other fish in Lake Erie.

The Bayshore plant's once-through cooling system sucks up
hundreds of millions of gallons of Lake Erie water daily. Fish in the
area are also pulled in and destroyed at an alarming rate. According to
FirstEnergy's own data, the plant:

  • Kills more than 46 million fish per year when fish are
    slammed and caught (called impingement) against its cooling water system
    screens
  • Kills 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 through equipment inside the power plant (called
    entrainment)
  • On average, kills 126,000 fish a day caught on the screens and 6 million fish daily that pass through the screens.

"Allowing this fish frappuccino machine to keep churning
through Lake Erie's fish is illegal and illogical," said Thom Cmar,
attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This dirty plant
has been chomping walleye for a half century. It's a drain on the local
economy, and it stands in the way of the cleanup and restoration of Lake
Erie."

Ohio EPA's final Clean Water Act water pollution permit for
Bayshore allows the facility to install a reverse louvered system that
has been effectively outlawed in the states of New York and California.
 The suit was filed with the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals
Commission in Columbus by Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association,
Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental
Council, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes, all of whom submitted
comments earlier this year calling on Ohio EPA to require greater
reductions in Bayshore's fish kills.

"If an angler snags one fish too many to feed his family,
state officials issue a citation on the spot," said Trent Dougherty,
Staff Attorney for Ohio Environmental Council. "Yet, even with proven
technology available to dramatically reduce the pollution and fish kills
from this plant, Ohio EPA continues to hand over a license to kill to
Ohio's largest utility company."

"EPA should hold FirstEnergy accountable and protect the
welfare of local residents, wildlife and the economy from the impacts of
the Bay Shore plant." said MacKenzie Bailey, the Ohio Representative
for the Sierra Club's Coal-to-Clean Energy Campaign, "By not enforcing
these protections we are selling ourselves short and dampening our local
economic potential."

"Western Lake Erie's fisheries deserve the highest standard
of protection," says Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program manager at the
Alliance for the Great Lakes. "We know how to solve this problem, yet
Ohio regulators have failed to force First Energy to install proven
cooling technology already in use throughout the country," says Welch.

The notice of appeal is available at http://docs.nrdc.org/legislation/files/leg_10122001a.pdf

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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