On January 14, 2014, EPA will unveil BAT requirements related to cooling water towers that will impact manufacturing operations across the country. Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act requires that the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact. This January, EPA will issue a final rule pursuant to 316(b), establishing technology standards for cooling water intake structures. EPA issued rules covering new facilities in 2001 and existing, large electric-generating facilities in 2004. The upcoming rule covers smaller facilities that withdraw at least 25 percent of their water from an adjacent waterbody for cooling purposes, and have a designed intake flow of greater than 2 million gallons per day, subjecting them to limits on how many fish can be killed or pinned against intake screens.
The new rule will affect over 1,200 existing facilities, including approximately 700 of the smaller power plants that hitherto escaped the 316(b) technology standards, but which are well aware of its impending release. Also affected however, are almost 600 manufacturing facilities, including refineries, paper mills and steel mills, many of which may not be focused on 316(b), but who will nonetheless need to spend time and resources in 2014 evaluating whether their cooling water intake structures reflect best available technology.