Standards Proposed for New Cooling Water Intake Structures to Prevent Large Fish Kills

WASHINGTON—To help prevent large numbers of fish and other aquatic organisms from being killed or injured by industrial cooling water intake structures, EPA on July 20 proposed standards to reduce environmental impacts from the structures at new industrial facilities. It will establish new requirements to protect the most biologically sensitive areas, including tidal rivers and estuaries.

Issued under a court order, the proposal would apply to new facilities that draw in large amounts of cooling water from waterways, primarily facilities in the following industries: steam electric power generation, pulp and paper making, chemical manufacturing, petroleum refining, and primary metals manufacturing (including iron and steel making and aluminum manufacturing).

Based on information from the early l980s, power plants and industrial facilities in the U.S. withdraw about 76 trillion gallons of water from surface waters annually. As a result, large numbers (often in the millions) of fish and other aquatic organisms are often killed or harmed. It is expected that the rule would affect no more than 98 facilities over the next 20 years.

EPA estimates a total annual compliance cost of $12 million and does not anticipate household energy costs to increase as a result of this rule. The agency is proposing these rules under the terms of a l995 settlement between EPA, industry and environmental groups. Final rules were first published in l976 and challenged in court by the industry. The l995 agreement requires EPA to propose new rules for new facilities by July 20, and to propose new rules for existing facilities by July 20, 2001. This proposal would set national minimum requirements for the location, design, construction and capacity of cooling water intake structure at new facilities. Facilities withdrawing more than two million gallons of water daily from water in the United States would be regulated if they use more than 25 percent of the water for cooling.