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EELC Joins Campaign to Stop Fish Kills

photo courtesy of NJ Highlands Coalition

photo courtesy of NJ Highlands Coalition

A coalition of environmental groups launched the “Stop the Delaware Fish Kills” Campaign to reduce the fish kills from power plant cooling water intake structures along the Delaware River.

The coalition joined forces in May by calling on environmental officials in New Jersey and Delaware to require three industrial plants, the Salem Nuclear Generating Station and the Mercer Power Plant in New Jersey, as well as the Delaware City Refinery in Delaware, to comply with a long ignored provision of the Clean Water Act that mandates facilities causing fish kills to minimize their impacts.

After no response from New Jersey or Delaware officials, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and New Jersey Sierra Club filed a Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writs in Superior Court of New Jersey for Mercer County requesting an order demanding that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) take action on PSE&G’s permit renewal application for the Salem Nuclear Generating Station in Lower Alloways Creek Township, New Jersey.

In a parallel action the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Delaware Audubon Society and Delaware Sierra Club filed for a Writ of Mandamus in Superior Court in Delaware to similarly compel action by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Because of long delays, the Salem facility and the Delaware City Refinery have been running under permits that should have been renewed 7 years ago in New Jersey and 11 years ago in Delaware.  These older permits allow facilities to utilize outdated cooling water intake structures that not only kill billions of fish every year, but drain the rivers of millions of gallons of water which increases bacteria growth and decreases oxygen levels.  This, in turn, further negatively impacts fish and shellfish.  For example, Salem kills over 3 billion Delaware River fish and organisms a year and the Delaware City Refinery kills over 45 million (these figures represent only a few species where the industry or agency actually counted, they do not include the impingement and entrainment deaths of all species affected by the plants).

Through legal action, the coalition seeks to spur NJDEP to issue a draft permit for Salem and DNREC to address the Delaware City’s expired permit that would enforce the “best available technology” required by Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act.  These new permits would require the facilities to replace their outdated “once-through” cooling water intake system with the “best available technology”, a Closed-Cycle Recycling System, which could reduce kills by nearly 98%.

Environmental groups “Stop the Delaware Fish Kills” Campaign include American Littoral Society, Delaware Audubon Society, Delaware Chapter Sierra Club, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Eastern Environmental Law Center, NJ Environmental Federation, NJ Sierra Club, and the Coalition for Peace and Justice, with legal assistance from lawyers at the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Eastern Environmental Law Center, and the Super Law Group.

The coalition’s letter to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regarding Salem Nuclear Generating Station can be found here.  The letter to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) regarding Mercer Power Plant can be found here.  The letter to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) regarding the Delaware City Refinery can be found here.

The coalition held a press conference this morning as the litigation was filed against the Salem Nuclear Plant and the Delaware City Refinery.  The press release is available here.

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