Monday, January 22, 2007

Suffering Mortality at the Hands of Broadwater

It seems as if the experts at FERC were a bit premature when they concluded, in their exhaustive and comprehensive environmental impact statement, that Broadwater’s gargantuan liquefied natural gas terminal would have no affect on the environment. Or perhaps they don’t consider the destruction of hundreds of millions of an estuary’s fish larvae and eggs a year to be worth worrying about.

The estimate of the amount of fish larvae and eggs that will be destroyed annually by Broadwater comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a January 18 letter to FERC. The letter points out that the LNG terminal, and the tankers that will carry LNG to it, will draw as much as 30.9 million gallons of water a day from Long Island Sound. That water will contain fish eggs and larvae. Of particular concern are the eggs and larvae drawn in by the tankers. As the Fish and Wildlife Service delicately puts it:

All of these organisms would likely suffer mortality.

The specific fish that are likely to suffer mortality are weakfish, scup, fourbeard rockling (seriously), tautog, sea robin, Atlantic menhaden, windowpane flounder, bay anchovy, smallmouth flounder, sand lance, and butterfish.

The estimated number of eggs and larvae of these fish that will suffer mortality is as high as 275 million a year. Somehow the experts who wrote and reviewed this exhaustive and comprehensive environmental impact statement, which concluded that Broadwater would have no affect on the environment, forgot to study that issue.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is also looking into whether two federally listed birds – the piping plover and roseate tern – might also suffer mortality. The draft environmental impact statement forgot to study that issue as well.

I suppose if you were charitably inclined you might say that it was an oversight on FERC’s part that it studied the environmental impacts of a giant industrial facility in an important estuary and forgot about what the impact might be on fish. If you’re less charitably inclined, like me, you’d think it’s just lame. I don’t think that FERC, under the influence of Broadwater and Shell and TransCanada, and presumably knowing full well that the issue of fish eggs and larvae suffering mortality is a big problem at power plants on the Hudson River and elsewhere, would leave that information out of the DEIS on purpose. Would they?

Judy Benson of the New London Day is apparently the only reporter reading the FERC online files. She had the story in Saturday’s paper



Anonymous Bryan said...

Kudos to the Dept. of Interior for responding to the DEIS with their concerns regarding entrainment and impingement of marine organisms.

FERC seems to takes the position with respect to the impacts that Broadwater is just a little thing in the middle of a big body of water, whether it's a exclusion zone of 1% of the surface area or a the death of a small percentage of all the larvae in the Sound. That logic shouldn't fly and it's good that Interior called them on it, at least regarding the absence of entrainment impacts from the LNG carriers. Interior seems to be happy if Broadwater uses finer mesh on its screen and lower intake velocity.

You brought up the issue of the cooling water used by the Hudson River power plants. Let's not forget that LI has its own share of power plants using water from LIS for non-contact cooling. For example, the Northport power plant is designed for as much as 935 million gallons per day of cooling water from LIS.

Broadwater claims the temperature increase (delta-T) will be less than 5degF. I don't know what the delta-T is for Northport, but I can tell you that it's 30degF for the Glenwood Landing power station (although in actual operation, it doesn't exceed 20degF), and I suspect that Northport's is the same.

Northport is only one of several power plants using LIS for cooling on the LI side. I presume that power plants in CT do the same. I hope that the focus on the entrainment/impingement impacts of Broadwater helps to educate the public regarding the existing impacts from power plants already operating on LIS.

In order to comply with the EPA rules for cooling water intake structures, these power plants are going to have to take steps to significantly reduce the number of organisms they kill every day. It's possible that the use of finer mesh and lower pump speeds will have the necessary effect; othwerwise, more drastic measures need to be taken.

Riverkeeper favors closed-cycle cooling to replace river water. Would the same techniques work on LI? I hope it's a matter that the LI environmental community is considering from all sides.

Cooling towers consume water and present their own visual impacts. Air-cooled condensers are noisy and inefficient. Both technologies require a large land-based footprint.

Is the use of cooling water from LIS (at least for our power plants) something on which we'll have to compromise?

2:03 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

My understanding is that in their infinite wisedome, Broadwater engineers decided it was a good idea to use a fine mesh filter screen and a bleaching agent for a disinfectant. Both would have horrendous impacts on microscopic larvae.

For those not in the know, microscopic plankton, larvae, and little itsey-bitsey stuff like that is called food. Mortality rates are so high that a few percent of the eggs become juvenile organisms. When more of these organisms are removed by cooling and ballasting systems, there is a double edged sword of both less food and less of a juvenile cohort.

Filters are practically useless unless you can find something that will work on 20-50 micron stuff, about the width of a hair, although oyster spat and some other larvae may be quite larger (they still get stuck on the screen and die). I think most power plant guys are talking half-inch to one inch filter mesh to keep the big chunks out of the pump mechanisms. By definition, they are designed to eat, digest, and spew dead micro-organisms.

So good points Bryan and I think we need to expand on the theme. Not only will the cooling water be 3.6 to 5.0 degrees higher when discharged, Broadwater wants to add a little Chlorox (sodium hypochlorite) to make sure their pipes don't grow nasty stuff that could clog them.

We all know what Chlorox does, since we know it is a good bleach and can sterilize things very well. It is a heavy oxidant, meaning it reacts on contact by stripping oxygen, a rather nasty habit. Even at low levels below PPM one can only imagine that there would be a significant impact on any remaining larvae that made it through the system.

Us humans are used to chlorine products because it is in our laundry room, swimming pools, and drinking water. Mother nature is not.

As to a regional plan to reduce cooling water impacts and improve discharges, that would be wonderful. Folks, what happens when you heat up water? It loses dissolved oxygen, good answer, since we all know cold water can absorb much more oxygen than warm water can. So the water must be hyper-treated and/or aerated with oxygen or you're basically killing the recieving waters. Basement science, dude!


6:08 PM  

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