Thursday, March 23, 2006

KeySpan Permit Granted

In a routine move, the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation has issued KeySpan a modified State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit for the Glenwood Landing Power Station (see KeySpan Seeks Renewal of SPDES Permit, March 9).

Although the comments the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee (HHPC) submitted did not produce any substantive changes in the permit, HHPC Director Eric Swenson says the review process was constructive. “It opened up a few doors of communication among KeySpan, DEC and HHPC,” he says.

The National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also commented on the application. NOAA’s concerns were primarily about whether coolant water discharged from the plant might raise water temperature enough to harm sea turtles at the southern end of Hempstead Harbor.

DEC documentation states that KeySpan has voluntarily agreed to provide HHPC with a study completed in 2004 about the affect of cooling water on juvenile fish, as well as copies of water quality data, monitoring reports, and incident reports that are part of the public record. Other reported data can be obtained from DEC or requested directly from KeySpan.

DEC documentation also states that KeySpan has voluntarily agreed to consult the Hempstead Harbor Water Quality Improvement and Harbor Management Plans when preparing the Best Management Practice Plan required under the permit. According to KeySpan, many of the practices identified in those plans are already used at the plant.

According to DEC, HHPC’s requests for certain additional monitoring practices, monitoring standards, and stormwater containment capabilities could not be required under the permit because these specifications fall outside the SPDES mandate.

Bryan Brown, who followed the application for the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, says the permit specifies some useful biological monitoring requirements and details certain measures that KeySpan must implement concerning cooling water intake structures. Bryan says that the Coalition plans to track these items.

Conclusions about the effect of water temperature on sea turtles and other animals in the harbor dates from a 1977 study showing a thermal plume of 110 acres originating from the plant. At the time, this area was determined to be “adequate for the protection of indigenous populations in the receiving water.” Because the data are nearly 30 years old, DEC is requiring KeySpan to conduct a thermal criteria study. More recent monitoring data collected between 2002 and 2005 show that the water discharged from the plant was consistently below 112 degrees F, the permitted limit.

However, the sea turtles face another challenge: There is concern that construction currently underway at the southern end of the harbor in Roslyn may have harmed the animals. NOAA’s comments also noted an error in the upper level of chlorine permitted in discharged water; the error has been corrected.

Persuading KeySpan to provide information and to respond to community concerns can, at times, be challenging. The stormwater discharge provisions surrounding the new generators north of the Glenwood Landing Power Station are an example. During the site selection and review process, various groups pointed out that the stormwater treatment and containment specifications in the site plan would accommodate only about two-thirds of rainfall during a recent period and did not meet state and county standards already in place or soon to take effect. A rigmarole of meetings, attempted meetings, and correspondence ensued. The problem remains and, as far as we know, there are no plans to address it, despite assurances made by the Long Island Power Authority during the site selection process that these types of issues would be addressed.

We are pleased to know that many provisions of the Hempstead Harbor Water Quality Improvement and Management Plans are in use at the Glenwood Landing Power Station and look forward to learning more details. We can only hope that Eric’s optimistic view of the situation is confirmed and that the doors of communication between KeySpan and the communities surrounding Hempstead Harbor have, indeed, opened a little wider.

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