Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wedgewire Screens Can Solve Entergy's Fish Egg Problem

Many nuclear power plants in the United States are going through feasibility studies to consider technologies to comply with an expected revision to Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act, which sets out rules related to fish impingement and entrainment. 316(b) requires that the location, design, construction and capacity of cooling water intake reflect the best available technology for minimizing the environmental impact on fish and other aquatic life.

In the U.S. 35 of the 104 active nuclear power reactors currently use closed-cycle cooling towers while 60 use once-through cooling technology. EPA said that while their information on impact is limited, the agency claims it does know that trillions of aquatic organisms are impinged or entrained annually. EPA also said that 40 percent of all cooling water intakes are on water bodies that have threatened or engaged species.

Installation of screens at the Oak Creek Station
 on Lake Michigan. Photo courtesy WE Energies
Existing power plants do have options besides expensive and unworkable cooling tower retrofits in order to reduce impingement and entrainment. Behavioral devices intended to scare fish away from the intake system, fish collection and transfer systems, which are intended to collect and return the species to the source body of water, and exclusion devices are three alternatives for cooling water intake structures. Exclusion devices include traveling water screens manufactured by companies such as Pro-Line Water Screen Services Inc. and narrow slot wedge wire screens constructed by Intake Screens Inc., as well as many other companies, and are deployed to keep fish, fish eggs and larvae from entering the power plant cooling system.

Indian Point Energy Center
In April the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a notice of denial for Entergy’s request for a water quality certificate for Indian Point. The DEC said the plant will not comply with the states water quality standards and that the plant’s water intake system and its releases of water back into the Hudson River are killing two species of fish. Indian Point must receive the water quality certificate in order for Entergy to request a 20-year license extension for Units 2 and 3, which are currently due to expire in 2013 and 2015. In late-July the DEC Administrative Law Judge held public meetings for both sides to voice their opinions. The appeals process is still ongoing.

According to Entergy conversions alone to the Indian Point plant would cost $1.1 billion for construction and would last until 2029 and being down a year without producing electricity total another $2 billion. Constructing cooling towers on site would require blasting 2 million cubic-yards of rock and granite over a period of four years in order to make space for the towers that are the size of two Yankee Stadiums.

Entergy has found technology that will provide better protection to the aquatic environment. Wedge wire screens are their solution for protecting fish eggs and larvae rather than cooling towers over the 20-year license renewal period. Installing wedge wire technology it would take three to five years and cost $200 million. (PowerGenWorldWide, Oct 1, 2010)

Judith Enck Statement on GE Hudson River Decision

Judith Enck
Statement on GE Hudson River Decision

Judith Enck
Regional Administrator,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

December 23, 2010
"EPA commends GE on its decision to conduct the second and final phase of the Hudson River cleanup. The decision sets us on a clear path to a cleanup of PCB-contaminated sediment that is based on the best science and will remove huge quantities of this dangerous chemical from the river.

Over the next few months, we will work with GE on technical plans for the cleanup. We are scheduled to resume dredging this spring. This is an important milestone in the progress we have made over many years in cleaning up and restoring the Hudson River for future generations."
Press inquiries: call Bonnie Bellow, 212-637-3660 or cell phone 646-369-0062
GE announced today that it has advised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it will perform the second and final phase of the Hudson River dredging project.

GE also said it will take an after-tax charge of about $500 million in the fourth quarter of 2010 to help fund the remainder of the project. As discussed on December 14 with securities analysts, GE expects that positive items, including a favorable tax settlement, will offset this charge. GE expects this step will resolve future uncertainty regarding Hudson dredging liabilities.

GE’s goal is to resume dredging in late Spring 2011. The company’s dredging team already has begun to refine the engineering design for Phase 2, based on technical discussions with EPA and the recommendations of the panel of independent scientists who evaluated the first phase of dredging. GE expects to submit the plans to EPA for review and approval in February.

For more information: Mark Behan 518-792-3856

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Proposed Revisions To Short & Full Environmental Forms

The public comment period for proposed revisions to the Short and Full Environmental Assessment Forms (EAFs) used by governmental agencies and boards to assess the environmental significance of actions reviewed under State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) regulations has opened. These forms are a critical part of the process that determines whether a full SEQR Environmental Impact Statement is needed for a particular project or action.

Many of the proposed revisions could be considered to have EJ implications. OEJ suggests that EJ stakeholders pay particular attention to:

EAF Part One - Section D.2. Project Operations; and Section E.1. Land Uses On and Surrounding the Project Site

EAF Part Two - Section 16. Impact on Human Health; Section 17. Consistency with Community Plans; and Section 18. Consistency with Community Character

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is proposing revisions to both the Short and Full Environmental Assessment Forms (EAFs) used by governmental agencies and boards to assess the environmental significance of actions reviewed under State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) regulations (6 NYCRR 617). The existing EAFs are out-of-date and no longer adequately serve the purposes for which they were created.

The notice for this action can be found in the November 24, 2010 issue of the Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB)
A legislative public hearing for this action will be held on January 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm in Room 129 at the offices of the NYS DEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233. Comments on the Full and Short EAF and supporting documents will be accepted by the Department until close of business, February 18, 2011. Please submit comments to Mr. Robert Ewing at the address listed below. Comments may also be submitted via the web to: . Please include EAF Comments in the subject line of the e-mail.

The draft revised EAF forms, associated rulemaking documents and the negative declaration are published in full at the following web address:

For further information, contact:

Robert Ewing
NYS DEC - Division of Environmental Permits
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-1750
Phone: (518) 402-9167

DEC Urban Forestry Grants


Tree Plantings, Green Infrastructure Can Reduce Pollution,
Improve Urban Quality of Life

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced it is making grants available to support urban forestry projects across the state. The Urban and Community Forestry grants will enhance New York’s urban landscapes with healthy trees and provide numerous environmental, health and economic benefits.

Trees, parks and other green spaces offer numerous benefits in cities and other populated areas, such as creating wildlife habitat, increasing property values, and improving the quality of life for residents and visitors. Trees also help address a number of negative impacts in urban areas by reducing water and air pollution, lowering local temperatures caused by the “heat island” effect, stopping erosion, and decreasing energy use, stormwater runoff and noise.

Eligible projects include tree inventories and management plans, tree and shrub planting and maintenance, and green infrastructure projects such as green roofs and rain gardens. Communities impacted by the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive and damaging beetle, can also seek funding for projects that include removal of at-risk trees or new tree plantings.

Applicants can include municipalities, public benefit corporations, public authorities, school districts and not-for-profit organizations that have a public ownership interest in the property or are acting on behalf of a public property owner. Grants, provided through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, will range from $2,500 to $62,500 depending on municipal population, with a 50/50 match requirement. Additionally, $1,000 “Quick Start Arbor Day” grants - with no match requirement - will be available to help communities generate support for a tree program with an Arbor Day celebration.

The urban forestry grant program complements DEC's ongoing initiatives to address climate change, environmental quality, environmental justice and sprawl. Grant proposals should discuss the scope of work to be done and how the project will provide environmental, economic, and/or social benefits in the community. In selecting sites, appropriate consideration should be given to under-served neighborhoods, as well as targeting local environmental issues. Applicants are encouraged to form regional partnerships and submit proposals that help to implement watershed protection and smart growth initiatives with green solutions.

DEC foresters are available to provide applicants with technical assistance (see contact information below). DEC staff will review the completed grant applications and choose recipients based on established rating criteria. Proposals will be evaluated on their cost effectiveness, projected benefits, use of recommended standards in implementation, community outreach, education, and support, and regional impact.

Applicants may obtain all necessary instructions and forms. Grant applications must be postmarked by Feb. 10, 2011, and sent to: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Urban Forestry, Division of Lands and Forests, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4253. For more information, call DEC at (518) 402-9425.

Friday, December 17, 2010

EPA Announces Requirements for Next Phase of Hudson River PCB Cleanup

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today presented GE with requirements for the next phase of the cleanup of the Hudson River. The second phase of the cleanup – which is designed to address potentially cancer-causing chemicals released for decades from two GE plants into the Hudson – would require GE to remove far more contaminated sediment from the river before sealing or “capping” any remaining PCBs. The decision follows months of consultation with GE, the State of New York and a wide range of stakeholder groups as the Agency analyzed technical information and decided how best to proceed with the second phase of the project. GE has until January 14, 2011 to review EPA’s decision and notify the Agency whether they will proceed with this phase of the cleanup, scheduled to begin in May 2011.

GE plants discharged approximately 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) during a 30 period ending in 1977, contaminating nearly 200 miles of the Hudson River. These potentially cancer-causing chemicals can build up in fish over time, posing a serious risk to those who eat them.

The cleanup of this site, one of the largest Superfund sites in the country was divided into two phases. Under EPA’s direction, GE began the first phase in May 2009, completing it in November 2009. EPA conducted a comprehensive review of the science and considered the views of a group of independent scientific experts following the completion of the first phase.

In the first phase of the cleanup, nearly 37% of the area was capped due to the continued presence of contamination, despite multiple dredging passes that removed the great majority of the PCBs. Capping in 15% percent of the area was unavoidable because of physical barriers in the river, leaving 22% percent capped in areas without these barriers. While fish and other aquatic life are not exposed to the contamination in the capped areas, the Agency has determined that it is necessary in Phase 2 to set a stringent limit on what percentage of the total project area can be capped if dredging does not meet the cleanup goals. This limit will be set at 11% of the total project area, not counting those areas where capping is unavoidable. This limit represents a significant improvement from Phase 1 and will require GE to employ considerably more rigorous dredging procedures.
Dredging during the second phase will go deeper into the sediment and, by relying on better information and lessons learned during the first phase, will remove more contaminated sediment in fewer passes. Phase two will require GE to remove an estimated 95 percent or more of PCBs from the areas designated for dredging. If GE does not agree to conduct the Phase 2 dredging, EPA fully reserves all of its enforcement authorities, including its right to order GE to perform the dredging, or take legal action to require GE to perform Phase 2 or to reimburse EPA for its costs of the cleanup if the Agency performs the cleanup using taxpayer funds.

The documents issued by EPA today and other information about the Hudson River PCBs Superfund Site can be found at: Residents with questions are encouraged to contact EPA Community Involvement Coordinator David Kluesner at (212) 637-3653.

Contact: Mary Mears (212) 637-3673, David Kluesner (212) 637-3653

EPA Technical Requirements for Hudson River Dredging Project

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided the General Electric Company (GE) with detailed requirements for the next phase of the project to remove sediment contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the bottom of the Hudson River. PCBs are probable human carcinogens and can also affect the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. EPA developed the plans for the second part of the two-phased dredging project after a scientific review of data and information from the first phase of dredging by a group of independent scientific experts, and extensive input from a broad range of stakeholders.

Two hundred miles of the Hudson River are on the federal Superfund list of the most hazardous waste sites in the country. Approximately 40 miles of the upper Hudson River from Hudson Falls to Troy contains the most contaminated areas of river bottom. In 2002 EPA made a formal decision to dredge areas of this stretch. The cleanup project was divided into two phases to allow time to evaluate information from the first phase to make improvements before proceeding with Phase 2.

Enhancements, refinements and improvements made to Phase 2 from Phase 1 include:

Improved Sampling In advance of Phase 1, GE took some 50,000 samples of river sediment in order to delineate and design the dredging project. Unfortunately, many of the samples turned out to be incomplete or otherwise inadequate for the intended purposes. The result was that the quantity and depth of PCBs in the areas to be dredged was often underestimated. Phase 1 operations required multiple dredging passes in most areas.

Phase 2: With the experience gained from Phase 1 sampling, GE is resampling using improved methodology to give more accurate and complete information on the extent of the contamination in the areas to be dredged. GE began this resampling effort this past summer.
Improved Dredge Design

The Phase 1 dredging design consistently underestimated the “depth of contamination” (DoC), which is the depth of cut that the dredge operators must make on each pass. As a result, multiple dredging passes were needed in Phase 1.

Underestimating DoC led to a less efficient dredging program that took longer than necessary. The reasons for the underestimation of DoC include the incomplete samples described above, but also the inadequate accounting for a high degree of variability in the contaminated sediment layer.
Phase 2: GE will be required to adjust the DoC calculations to take into account this variability. This means the dredger will dig deeper in certain locations in order to give greater assurance that all the PCB-contaminated sediments will be captured.

Fewer Dredge Passes In Phase 1, the plan allowed for multiple dredging passes – typically three to four -- to capture as much of the PCB-contaminated sediments as possible.

One consequence of the multiple dredge passes approach was that areas that had been dredged often stayed “open” (uncovered) for months while repeated re-sampling and re-dredging took place. During this time the exposed sediments were able to get back into the water column and/or were re-deposited on the river bottom.

Phase 2: A maximum of two dredge passes will be used. In very rare circumstances, when a particularly high concentration of PCBs is unexpectedly discovered after the second pass, EPA will require a third.

Significantly Less Capping GE will be required to design the dredging project to achieve the cleanup target of 1 part per million of the most toxic PCBs, referred to as “Tri+ PCBs,” in all of the dredge areas.

Due to certain physical constraints in the river (bedrock, clay and shoreline stability considerations) and other realistic limitations on the ability of dredging to achieve the cleanup target in all areas, there will be some areas that require a cap to isolate the relatively small amount of PCBs that remain after dredging occurs.

Even in areas that require a cap, the vast majority of the PCBs will be dredged before the area is capped.
Phase 2:

EPA will limit capping at 11 percent of the total project area, not counting those bedrock/clay/shoreline areas where capping is the only option. In addition, within this 11 percent maximum of dredged area that may be capped under this performance standard, another lower limit of 3 percent has been established to even more stringently limit capping over areas where significant PCB contamination remains below the top six inches of sediment after two dredging passes. By comparison, in Phase 1, 22 percent of the total acreage dredged was capped, not counting bedrock, clay and shoreline areas.

Increased Productivity During Phase 1, a total of 283,000 cubic yards of sediment were dredged by GE.

Phase 2: The target for the second phase of the project is to dredge a minimum of 350,000 cubic yards of sediment each year. EPA expects that GE will be able to achieve even higher productivity, up to 500,000 cubic yards a year or more.

Protective Limits on Resuspension

A fundamental goal of the project is to achieve a quick and significant reduction in PCB levels in fish tissue. Since the conclusion of Phase 1, fish samples collected in the fall of 2009 showed that – as always expected – there was a short-term increase in fish tissue PCB levels during and immediately after dredging operations. But fish samples collected in the spring and fall of 2010 showed no appreciable change from pre-dredging levels, also confirming EPA’s predictions. Updated modeling and other projections provide strong evidence that anticipated rates of resuspension will not jeopardize the goals of the project; on the contrary, once the project is completed, fish are projected to show speedy and dramatic improvements as a result of the dredging.

Phase 2: EPA is setting resuspension standards that take into account both the concentration of PCBs in the river water and the amount of PCBs moving downstream.

Both measurements are made at specified locations along the 40-mile stretch of the Upper Hudson in which the project is being carried out. If, at a designated measuring location, the concentration exceeds 500 parts per trillion of PCBs (equal to the maximum amount allowed in drinking water) for five days out of any seven, then GE may be required to take various steps. These steps include a temporary slowdown of operations or, in the unlikely event of a particularly high exceedance, a possible temporary shutdown of operations.

The amount of PCBs allowed to travel down the river will not be allowed to exceed 2% of the total amount of PCBs actually excavated from the river bottom, as measured at designated locations downstream of where the dredging is taking place.

At Waterford, the farthest downstream measuring station, the load may not exceed 1% of the amount excavated. If these limits are exceeded for specified periods of time, then GE may be required to take various steps, including a temporary slowdown of operations. These standards, particularly the load standard at Waterford, will be re-evaluated, and may need to be adjusted and updated as dredging operations move from the uppermost portions of the 40-mile stretch of river into areas much further downstream.

Flexibility to Make Changes

As the Hudson River Peer Review Panel recommended to EPA, the plan for Phase 2 calls for constant evaluation of new data, and provides for adjustments as the project moves forward if needed to improve operations and meet project goals. EPA will make these determinations based on scientific data.

These and other improvements to the second phase of the Hudson River dredging project will ensure that the momentum of the cleanup work in the river continues and that the biggest sources of ongoing contamination are addressed.

For more information or to view the technical documents that contain the details of Phase 2, visit . Copies of the documents can also be viewed at EPA’s Hudson River Field Office located at 421 Lower Main Street, Hudson Falls, NY.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hydraulic Fracturing Moratorium Passes in Albany

The State Assembly voted 93 to 43 on Monday night to block new permits for the drilling practice, known as hydraulic fracturing, until May 15, 2011. The Senate approved the temporary moratorium in August.

The purpose would be to give the state more time to address safety and environmental worries, especially concerns that the drilling could contaminate groundwater supplies.  The State Department of Environmental Conservation is reviewing the potential impact of horizontal hydraulic fracturing upstate and final regulations governing drilling could be ready as early as May 2011.

Hydraulic fracturing is a type of natural gas drilling that involves shooting chemicals and water into rock formations to release natural gas. The moratorium is aimed particularly at heading off hydraulic fracturing that relies on horizontal drilling, which requires the use of chemicals and vast amounts of water. Natural gas companies have been buying leases upstate and applying for permits for years to tap the Marcellus Shale, site of one of the largest natural gas fields in North America.

Governor David A Paterson is considering whether to sign the legislation. The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, an industry group, urged Mr. Paterson to veto the bill. (NYT, 11/30/2010)