New DEC Policy Targets a 90% Reduction in Fish Kills
"Billions of fish are killed each year when they are caught up in the intake of cooling water for industrial processes," Commissioner Joe Martens said. "The policy we are implementing today will reduce fish kills by 90 percent while allowing flexibility for the industry to reach our goal of protecting aquatic wildlife."
Fish of all life stages can be subject to entrainment, passing through a plant's cooling systems along with the cooling water, or to impingement, where they are smashed against the intake structure directly. They can suffer from lethally high water temperatures, contact with impellers or heat-exchangers, or from exposure to the chemicals used to maintain heat-exchanger cleanliness. Steam electric power plants account for the majority, though not all, of this industrial cooling impact, with some power plants using more than a billion gallons of water every day for cooling purposes. Other industries in New York using non-contact cooling water include manufacturing facilities (e.g. cement and sugar industry) and large office buildings.
The policy identifies closed-cycle cooling or its equivalent as the performance goal for BTA to minimize these impacts. Many existing facilities use once-through cooling where water is drawn into the facility, passed through the cooling system, and then discharged back into the waterbody. Fish and other organisms are killed or injured in the process. Closed-cycle cooling systems, such as cooling towers, use significantly less water and recirculate the water they use, reducing millions of gallons of water that is actually withdrawn from the water body. This, in turn, greatly reduces the impingement and entrainment of organisms - by more than 90 percent.
However, closed-cycle cooling is not always an available technology for existing facilities as issues of space availability and compatibility of new technology with the facility's original design frequently make it infeasible to implement. The performance goal of the policy allows facilities to propose an alternative mitigative technology, or operational measure, such as flow reduction, to achieve reductions in impact equivalent to what could be realized with cooling towers. This provides flexibility to the industry in designing a mitigative system while ensuring that aquatic impacts are reduced to the greatest extent possible.
A draft of the policy was released for public notice and comment in March 2010. Following public review, meetings were held with various stakeholders to discuss comments and questions on the draft policy. The revised, final policy is available on the DEC public website, along with a Response to Comments and final SEQR Negative Declaration.