New Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules regarding water pollution, from power plants, have been established that will control the amount of toxic heavy metal pollution power plants can dump into Mercer County waterways.
Electric power plants without cooling towers, like the Mercer Generating Station in Trenton, are one of the largest sources of toxic water pollution in the country and dump toxic metals like arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, and selenium into the water. Two years ago, the Sierra Club, along with a coalition of environmental and clean water groups, released a report on the importance of the EPA setting strict standards that limit toxic water pollution from these plants.
“Everyone knows there is air pollution coming from these plants, but they are also main contributors to water pollution. It’s important that we are regulating toxins in the water, especially due to the number of power plants in New Jersey. The water pollution from plants, like the Mercer Generating Station, threatens health, drinking water, and recreation opportunities,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Environmental Protection Agency limits on these toxins in our water will prevent children from getting sick, ensure our water is safe to drink and our fish safe to eat, and save lives.”
Coal plants are also source of toxic water pollution nationally, and New Jersey is no exception with PSEG’s Mercer Generating Station. Mercer Generating Station is one of the largest sources of water pollution. This plant is located above water supply intakes for both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The chemicals from the plant’s smoke stacks are deposited in marshes and waterways. Nitrous oxide from the plant contaminates the river and marsh, creating eutrophication problems causing algal growth, dissolved oxygen levels to drop and other water quality issues. Mercury emissions from the plant enter the food chain putting local health at risk and impairing the river. There still may be some coal ash on site as well. The DEP has not released new water discharge permits for Mercer that require cooling towers, allowing them to continue discharging thermal pollution, killing millions of fish and aquatic organisms a year, including endangered sturgeon.
“People don’t understand that the emissions from power plants are just as big a threat to our water as they are to our air. In their water discharge, the plants pollute our waterways with toxic chemicals such as arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, and selenium,” said Jeff Tittel. “The DEP isn’t doing their job to stop the Mercer plant from their superheated pollution dumping by requiring cooling towers. The EPA’s new standards are the first real step to try and protect our waterways from pollution from plants like these.”
Existing guidelines written to limit toxics discharged from power plants do not cover many of the worst pollutants, explained Sierra Club representatives, and have not been updated in more than 30 years. In April 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency first proposed these national standards for toxics dumped into waterways from coal plants. The Sierra Club has supported these strong “effluent limitation guidelines” that will limit the amount of toxic chemicals that are dumped into waterways. These standards will also require all power plants to monitor and report the amount of toxics dumped into our water, giving us detailed information for the first time about the types and amounts of dangerous chemicals in our water.
“Limiting the amount of toxics in our water from power plants through these standards will save lives, protect our health, and ensure our water is safe to drink and our fish safe to eat. The EPA’s effluent limitation standards will help to protect our water supply and environment from these dangerous chemicals being released from plants like the Mercer Generating Station,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.