The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized standards today that are designed to protect fish and other aquatic life drawn each year into cooling water systems at large power plants and factories. The rule addresses impingement issues and heat damages that can be caused by cooling water intake structures at large industrial facilities and power plants.
The final rule establishes requirements under the Clean Water Act for all existing power generating facilities and existing manufacturing and industrial facilities that withdraw more than 2 million gallons per day of water from waters of the U.S. and use at least 25 percent of the water they withdraw exclusively for cooling purposes. The rule covers roughly 1,065 existing facilities –521 factories and 544 power plants.
There are three main components to the final regulation:
- Existing facilities that withdraw at least 25 percent of their water from an adjacent waterbody exclusively for cooling purposes and have a design intake flow of greater than 2 million gallons per day are required to reduce fish impingement. The owner or operator of the facility will be able to choose one of seven options for meeting best technology available requirements for reducing impingement.
- Facilities that withdraw very large amounts of water – at least 125 million gallons per day – are required to conduct studies to help the permitting authority determine what site-specific entrainment mortality controls, if any, will be required.
- New units built at an existing facility to increase the generating capacity of the facility will be required to reduce intake flows to a level similar to a closed cycle, recirculation system. This can be done by incorporating a closed-cycle system into the design of the new unit, or by making other design changes equivalent to the reductions associated with closed-cycle cooling.
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