Cape Cod Bay Watch Report says Entergy, regulators failed to monitor plant’s effects on the Bay

Published under Fair Use

By Frank Mand
fmand@wickedlocal.com

June 15. 2015

PLYMOUTH – Cape Cod Bay Watch (CCBW) has been criticizing Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station for years, often focusing on the plants’ “once-through cooling system,” which it claims needlessly destroys the Bay’s marine resources. The plant’s response to these assertions is usually short: They have the necessary permits; they are monitoring conditions; and there is little scientific support for critics’ claims.

Now, CCBW has released a new report titled “Entergy, Our Bay is Not Your Dump,” based largely on thousands of pages of documents that Bay Watch volunteer and attorney Meg Sheehan says shine a light on the failure of Entergy and regulators to protect the Bay.

“Pilgrim has been using seawater for cooling for free for 42 years, and the public pays the price in pollution and decimated fisheries and ecosystem health,” Sheehan said. “Destroying our Bay for Entergy’s short-term profits makes little economic or environmental sense.”

The report argues that new evidence shows a systematic abandonment of monitoring efforts that, in large part, began with Entergy’s purchase of the facility 15 years ago.

“This report exposes thousands of pages of agency documents describing the destruction of marine resources over 40 years,” Sheehan said. “It exposes the hypocrisy of government agencies spending billions of taxpayer dollars on fisheries restoration, and many millions of dollars on studying and trying to mitigate climate change, while ignoring the largest polluter in Cape Cod Bay.”

The report highlights a variety of monitoring programs or procedures CCBW says have been either neglected or abandoned since Entergy took over ownership from Boston Edison.

The PATC

“The cornerstone of Pilgrim’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit,” CCBW says, was a scientific panel, the PATC, that oversaw Pilgrim’s impacts and recommended technology improvements or mitigation.

The PATC was disbanded in early 2000.

Aerial surveys

Planes looked for schools of migrating fish so that Pilgrim could shut down the intake pumps to avoid killing them.

Those surveys were ended in 1993.

Coordinating refueling and maintenance shutdowns with times where there high concentrations of winter flounder eggs and larvae in the water

The report says “there is no record that Energy has ever fully observed what was a PATC recommendation to coordinate Pilgrim’s planned refueling outages or to use alternate cooling” during the last two weeks of April until the end of May to “coincide with the peak densities of winter flounder larvae in the water column.”

Mitigation project funding

“In the past, Boston Edison, and later Entergy, was required to fund mitigation projects in an effort to offset Pilgrim’s destructive marine ecosystem impacts,” CCBW says. “Soon after Entergy bought Pilgrim, most of the restoration projects ceased.”

Monitoring of the “benthic” or sea floor habitat in front of Pilgrim

“The last benthic survey was done in 1999, “ the CCBW report states, “the year Entergy bought Pilgrim.”

Apprised of the report and its assertions, Entergy’s spokesperson for Pilgrim, Lauren Burm, was quick to reply.

“Pilgrim operates in accordance with a valid National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” Burm noted. “In compliance with this permit, Entergy conducts an extensive biological monitoring program, which establishes that Pilgrim’s operations are not adversely impacting Cape Cod Bay.”

Entergy is looking forward to receiving a new permit, Burm added, and is working closely with the EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to accomplish that.

Burm said that this latest CCBW report is not a scientific document and suggested that more relevant, scientifically obtained data can be found in a 2012 report from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS).

The Cape Cod Bay Monitoring Program (CCBMP) at the Center began in 2006 and, according to its website, “tracked changes in water quality and related indicators of ecosystem health” over five years, culminating with the 2012 report entitled “How is our Bay?”

Key findings from the CCBMP report include an improvement in conditions at 55 percent of the stations monitored, an overall decline in environmental conditions at 40 percent of the stations monitored, variations in the health and growth of eel grass, and an increase in the number and extent of invasive species in the Bay.

To a layperson that doesn’t sound like a Bay that is being sucked dry by Pilgrim’s cooling system, but the scientific relevance of the CCMB study is also not readily apparent for the layman.

When asked whether its long-term monitoring can be used to evaluate the effect, or lack of a discernible effect, by the plant’s operation on the Bay, Coastal Studies President Richard Delaney said no.

“The closest monitoring station that we utilize in our ongoing studies is six nautical miles from Pilgrim,” Delaney explained. “Too far to credibly evaluate the impacts of the plant on the Bay.

“It would be misleading to say that our report offers evidence of a lack of impact, or evidence of an impact,” Delaney added.

Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.

CAPE COD BAY WATCH: Report says Entergy, regulators failed to monitor plant’s effects on the Bay – Gate House.

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