Lawsuit Forces Technological Updates Protecting the River
Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper® teamed up with PennFuture in 2006 to reduce thermal impacts of the PPL Brunner Island (PPL-BI) power plant on the Susquehanna River. The plant withdraws from the Susquehanna and later discharges up to 795 million gallons of once-through condenser cooling water each day. That uncooled wastewater reached temperatures as high as 123 degrees (F) in the discharge channel.
By 2004, DEP biologists had determined that PPL-BI’s cooling water discharge was having harmful effects on the river s biological community for three miles below the plant. Negotiations between DEP and PPL-BI had dragged on for about two years until, on January 9, 2006, PennFuture filed a Notice of Intent to Sue on behalf of Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper® against PPL-BI under the federal Clean Water Act for temperature violations. After intensified negotiations, on March 27, 2006, PPL-BI and DEP entered into a Consent Order and Agreement that was incorporated into a Stipulated Settlement filed before the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at No. 202 M.D. 2006 on that same date. The Commonwealth Court adopted the Stipulated Settlement as an Order of the Court on March 30, 2006.
In the Stipulated Settlement, PPL-BI agreed not to contest certain effluent limitations and other conditions that DEP would incorporate into a revised NPDES discharge permit. The most important of these conditions requires the company to install draft mechanical cooling structures at the Brunner Island plant by December 31, 2009, and to run the full volume of condenser cooling water through those cooling structures from March 1 through November 30.
DEP released a draft of the revised NPDES permit in June 2006. Comments were submitted to DEP on the draft permit on July 10, 2006. While applauding PPL-BI s commitment to add cooling technology to a plant built in the 1960s, the comments object to a number of the final temperature limitations and the manner in which they were derived.
This settlement is historic for the Susquehanna and a national model for stopping thermal water pollution from older power plants. In the settlement, PPLcommitted $120 million to construct cooling structures to reduce the temperature of the more than 600 million gallons of cooling water it discharges each day into the Susquehanna River, which is expected to alleviate the violations of the law. The violations had caused several large fish kills and impairment of fish habitat. PPL will not only make the large investments to stop the problem, but will pay the fines assessed by DEP directly to the Lancaster and York County Conservation Districts for measures to protect streams in the lower Susquehanna watershed.