The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Monday announced it has finalized its proposed 316(b) standards under the Clean Water Act for cooling water systems at large power plants and factories. The rule was established to address the intake of aquatic life into cooling water systems at large facilities, which the EPA estimates kills some 2.1 billion fish, crabs, and shrimp annually by impingement or entrainment.
The final rule establishes requirements 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 will impact approximately 1,065 facilities – 544 of which are power generating plants.
“EPA is making it clear that if you have cooling water intakes you have to look at the impact on aquatic life in local waterways and take steps to minimize that impact,” said Nancy Stoner, acting Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA.
There are three 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. To ensure flexibility, 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. This process will include public input.
· New units at an existing facility that are built to increase the generating capacity of the facility are be required to reduce the intake flow to a level similar to a closed cycle, recirculation system. Closed cycle systems are the most effective at reducing entrainment. 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.
EPA said the national requirements will be implemented through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.