Lawsuit Pressures Coal Plant to Stop Killing Millions of Fish in Lake Erie

bay-shore-power-plant photo

Image: Bay Shore Power Plant

Remember the story of Ohio's Bay Shore coal-fired power plant, the one that (perfectly legally) kills at least 46 million fish a year? Well that's still happening, but not without some legal challenges.
A coalition of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit challenging FirstEnergy's right to destroy millions of Lake Erie's fish, which it now has under permit from the Ohio EPA. All it would take to not kill so many fish? Some water cooling towers, which NRDC says would reduce fish losses by 95 percent.

Some context, from NRDC: "Bayshore sits in Lake Erie's Maumee Bay, one of the most important spawning grounds and fisheries in the world supporting a $1.4 billion annual commercial and recreational fishing economy."

The damage to that economy because of the Bay Shore coal plant alone is estimated to be $29.7 million a year, according to a recent economic study [PDF], although as Ohio Citizen points out, that "did not include estimates of damage from other uses such as hunting or bird-watching, both of which also contribute to the state's economy."

Despite the mandate under the federal Clean Water Act that companies employ the best available technology to reduce their environmental impacts, the Ohio EPA is allowing Bay Shore to "install a solution that Ohio EPA's own consultants have already shown to be less effective," writes NRDC.

"Beyond the fish sucked in and churned through the plant, it discharges heated water that kills even more fish and places heavy stress on the ecosystem. The heated water likely contributes to the growth of the toxic algae that is choking this part of the lake and threatening businesses and jobs dependant on a healthy Lake Erie," said Sandy Bihn, Executive Director of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, one of the organizations partaking in the lawsuit.

The NRDC press release continues:

Lake Erie's walleye population is one of the most valuable for fishermen but has been on the decline. This fall when the Bayshore plant shut down some of its operations and reduced water use from 750 to 184 million gallons a day, many fisherman observed a massive increase in the population of the walleye forage fish, gizzard shad, leading some to believe that reducing fish kills at the plant would likely help reverse the downward trend for walleye and other fish in Lake Erie.

It then cites FirstEnergy's own data about the Bay Shore plant:

  • Kills more than 46 million fish per year when fish are slammed and caught (called impingement) against its cooling water system screens

  • Kills more than 14 million juvenile fish and more than 2 billion fish in their larval form when they pass through the water intake screens and through equipment inside the power plant (called entrainment)

  • On average, kills 126,000 fish a day caught on the screens and 6 million fish daily that pass through the screens.

Compare that with the number of fish allowed per individual license, as Lloyd at TreeHugger pointed out last year: up to six walleye, and 25 perch, per day.

More about coal and fish
More to Hate About Coal Plants: They are Fish Killing Machines
Why Do Fish Near Coal Plants Have Lower Levels of Mercury?
Minnesota's Fish, Like Its Women & Children: 'All Above Average' - Mercury Rising
Freshwater Fish Laced with Mercury (Video News)

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