New Limits Set on Steam Electric Plant Waste

     (CN) – Steam electric power plants will have to make sure they do not exceed new limits placed on the toxic pollutants they discharge into the nation’s rivers and streams.
     The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday put new standards in place for the levels of pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, lead and selenium for wastewater discharged from steam electric power generating plants.
     These chemicals can cause neurological damage in children, lead to cancer, and damage to the circulatory system, kidneys, and liver.
     EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the new rule sets “the first national limits to protect public health and reduce toxic pollutants.”
     The rule will remove 1.4 billion pounds of toxic metals discharged nationwide annually, according to the EPA.
     Most of the nation’s 1,080 steam electric power plants – which use fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas to heat water in boilers to produce steam – already meet the requirements. Only 134 plants will have to make new investments to meet the new standards.
     “These cost-effective, achievable limits will provide significant protections for our children and communities across the country, including minority and low-income communities, from exposure to pollutants,” McCarthy said.
     The new rules, called “strong but reasonable” by the EPA, are based on technologies that are already broadly used in the industry today.
     More than 23,000 miles of rivers and streams in the nation are polluted by steam electric plant discharges, which occur near 100 public drinking water intakes and in proximity to nearly 2,000 public wells, according to the EPA.
     Estimated annual compliance costs nationally are $480 million, compared to the $450 million to $566 million per year in benefits, the EPA said.
     On Tuesday, the agency set new rules to control toxic air emissions from petroleum refineries by forcing operators to adopt new technology that better monitors and controls emissions.
     The new standards will, for the first time, require refineries to install air monitors along their fence lines where benzene and other toxic emissions enter neighboring communities.
     “These updated Clean Air Act standards will lower the cancer risk from petroleum refineries for more than 1.4 million people and are a substantial step forward in EPA’s work to protect the health of vulnerable communities located near these facilities,” McCarthy said.
     The agency is expected on Thursday to set new limits on smog-forming pollution linked to asthma and respiratory illness.

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