Broadwater's Hot Water
Broadwater’s liquefied natural gas terminal would take in millions of gallons of water from Long Island Sound, use it as a coolant, and then discharge the water back into the Sound at a higher temperature – an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. This is called thermal pollution, and the scientists and government experts who have reviewed the Broadwater environmental impact statement think it is potentially a problem. They also think that the impact statement did a poor job analyzing it. Sam Wells, who comments frequently here and who used to live on the Sound in
But that summer there was an unusual outbreak of red jellyfish, the Lion’s Mane, known for its intense sting similar to that of a Portuguese Man-O-War. My little brother got stung by one across the chest and nearly drowned, right next to about 50 other boaters and swimmers on good old
Being a kid, I listened to the men-folk ponder the massive infestation of the red jellyfish, talking in low, serious voices: “maybe Millstone … nuclear power plant … cooling water.” True enough, Millstone Unit One down by
In subsequent years I found that the connection between the Lion’s Mane and Millstone’s cooling water might not have been exactly true, since the Lion’s Mane thrives in colder waters but will end up in the shallow bays and inlets in the summertime. Within a few years the infestation simply disappeared. However, because of warmer water temperatures the ecology of that part of the Sound shifted tremendously and fundamentally, at least in our minds on that hot, becalmed day on
It turns out that thermal pollution is a big issue for Long Island Sound, even if the tipping point didn’t occur in 1972. Warmer peak summertime water temperatures allow for more rapid blooms of certain kinds of algae, given the increasing nutrient loads. Bacteria decompose the dead algae and consume the available oxygen. Thermal pollution continues to be a relevant issue even today, with large industrial projects being proposed such as Broadwater.