DEP ISSUES RENEWAL
OF PSEG DISCHARGE PERMIT
The Department of Environmental Protection
(DEP) announced today the issuance of a renewal permit to
PSEG to use water from the Delaware River to operate the
cooling system at the Salem Nuclear Generating Station.
"After very careful analysis, we have determined
that at this time the applicant has complied with the terms
and special conditions in its existing permit," said DEP
Assistant Commissioner of Environmental Regulation Dennis
Hart. "However, we are imposing additional measures in this
renewal. Our main objectives are to minimize fish losses
associated with the water intakes and to maximize opportunities
to increase fish populations in the Delaware River estuary
to further offset these losses. "
New conditions in the final permit include
a requirement to study the use of light in combination with
the sound system, to deter the fish from entering the facility.
The use of sound alone has not shown promise for being effective
for all species, so a combination of deterrents is being
explored, as the best technology available, according to
In addition, the final permit requires
PSEG to continue its wetlands restoration project, continue
the review process by the estuary enhancement oversight
committee, and refine its biological monitoring program
to obtain more accurate data on the plant's impact on fish
populations and the effectiveness of the fish ladders and
wetlands enhancements. The company also must refine its
plant-related sampling and analyses including loss estimates
and undertake an updated study of the hydrodynamics at the
intakes. DEP also is requiring enhancements to the fish
return system associated with the intake traveling screens
so that the water is less turbulent and therefore less stressful
to the fish.
This permit replaces the permit issued
in July 1994. The DEP hired an independent consultant, ESSA
Technologies of Toronto, to assist in analyzing parts of
the application and held public hearings on the draft permit
at the Pennsville Memorial High School January 23, 2001,
and on January 25, 2001 at Cumberland County College in
The permit issued in 1994 included several
conditions to reduce fish mortality and increase fish propagation.
Some were required under the Clean Water Act and others
were voluntarily proposed by PSEG. These conditions included
improved intake screens and fish buckets to reduce the number
of fish entering the plant, a limit on intake flow, the
study of sounding devices to deter fish from entering the
intakes, installation of fish ladders, and a major wetlands
restoration project, considered the largest privately funded
wetlands restoration project in the nation, to enhance habitat
for fish propagation.
The modified intake screens have smaller
and less injurious openings that are more effective in reducing
fish mortality. Specially designed buckets also help reduce
fish mortality by suspending the fish in a curved lip that
reduces injury, before the fish are returned to the estuary
via the fish return system.
The permit issued in July 1994 requires
the company to restore, enhance or preserve 14,500 acres
of wetlands in and around the Delaware estuary to provide
more fish breeding and nursery areas, thereby increasing
ecological productivity. It specifically requires the company
to purchase a minimum of 8,000 acres of degraded wetlands
plus 6,000 acres of upland buffers (or an additional 2,000
acres of degraded wetlands). The required work is on-going
at eight sites: Alloways Creek, Cohansey River, Maurice
River Twp., Commercial Twp., Dennis Twp., the Bayside Tract,
and two sites in Delaware - Cedar Swamp and The Rocks.
The restoration projects have 12 years
to become successful, and so far all are on track with acceptable
levels of vegetative growth recorded and verified in aerial
photos and field inspections. Four of the eight sites were
dominated by phragmites, and the reduction of phragmites
is progressing at all four sites. Phragmities are a tall,
widespread, marsh plant that chokes out other plant life
and raises ground elevation thus reducing fish habitat,
and productivity. Phragmities reduction is progressing through
the use of various eradication methods, including a limited
use of herbicides.
This permit renewal continues the wetlands
restoration and fish ladder related requirements contained
in the 1994 permit. To implement these permit requirements,
PSEG created the Estuary Enhancement Program (EEP). To date
the EEP has restored and/or preserved over 20,500 acres
of land in and around the Delaware estuary, making this
the largest privately funded wetlands restoration project
in the nation.
During the public comment period, the department
received extensive written comments as well as public testimony
at public hearings. Many parties commented on the EEP and
the wetland restoration requirements. While many commenters
praised the environmental benefits of the wetland restoration
program, some commenters expressed specific concern regarding
the continued need to use herbicides to meet restoration
goals for portions of the Alloways Creek site.
Given this concern, on June 8 PSEG informed
the department of its decision to revise its restoration
program for the Alloways Creek site. Specifically, PSEG
will cease utilizing herbicides for the management of approximately
1,000 acres of the westerly portion of the Alloways Creek
site; retain these phragmities-dominated wetlands; and purchase
approximately 1,000 additional acres to ensure compliance
with the permit conditions. The department intends to pursue
implementation of this decision by PSEG with appropriate
refinements, as necessary.
Hart also said that, in response to comments
from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, PSEG has agreed
to fund the construction of two additional fish ladders
in New Jersey, provided suitable sites are available. In
addition, PSEG has agreed to fund construction of an artificial
reef in New Jersey. These new commitments are included as
conditions of this final permit.
Advisory committee members for this project
include representatives from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography,
Louisiana University Marine Consortium, Stevens Institute
of Technology, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Center,
University of Georgia Marine Institute, National Marine
Fisheries Services, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Delaware
Estuary Program, State of Delaware and U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
Biological monitoring data on fish populations
in the Delaware are obtained in accordance with a DEP-approved
workplan. The biological monitoring data collected by PSEG
compliments the long-term and on-going data collected by
the State of Delaware and DEP. This data was used in analyzing
the permit application. The analyses show the population
trends for most species studied are increasing.
ESSA Technologies, the firm assisting DEP
in analyzing portions of the voluminous application, is
an international firm with more than 20 years of experience
in managing and evaluating environmental and natural resource
projects. While this is not the first time DEP has retained
an independent consultant to evaluate a New Jersey Pollution
Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit, it is the
largest NJPDES permit application ever received by the department.
ESSA will be paid approximately $300,000 with funds from
an assessment added to PSEG's permit fee.
In its 1994 permit, DEP determined that
retrofitting the facility with new cooling towers would
have involved a complicated and wide-scale construction
project entailing substantial costs disproportionate to
the environmental benefit. While the Clean Water Act does
not call for this type of economic analysis, there was legal
precedent for such an analysis, and EPA concurred with DEP
in this matter.
The final permit continues to allow the
withdrawal of 3.024 billion gallons of water a day, as a
monthly average, to cool the reactors, which represents
no change from the prior permit conditions. It should be
noted that at no time does the cooling water come into direct
contact with the two nuclear reactors.
For more information visit http://www.state.nj.us/dep.