Reduction Planned for Power Plant Toxic Metals

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that may significantly reduce the amounts of pollutants that steam powered electric power plants emit into surface waters.
     Certain steam electric power plants generate electricity through fossil or nuclear fuels through a thermal cycle that uses a steam and water system.
     The EPA has proposed regulations that would “strengthen the controls on discharges” from those plants by revising the guidelines for discharges into surface waters.
     The agency said it is considering several different options for the reduction, and named four alternatives for regulating the discharges.
     “EPA estimates that the preferred regulatory options would reduce pollutant discharges by 0.47 billion to 2.62 billion pounds annually, and reduce water use by 50 billion to 103 billion gallons per year,” the agency wrote.
     “EPA predicts substantial environmental and ecological improvements would result under the preferred regulatory options, along with reduced impacts to wildlife and human health.”
     The current regulations governing these discharges were last updated in 1982, and according to the agency, “do not adequately address the toxic pollutants discharged from the electric power industry, nor have they kept pace with process changes that have occurred over the last three decades.”
     The agency is mainly concerned with discharges of metals like mercury and arsenic, as well as nitrogen and total dissolved solids.
     Studies have shown these discharges have documented harm to human health, wildlife and aquatic life, and soil health, the agency said.
     “In general, depending on the option, the proposed rule would establish new or additional requirements for wastewaters associated with the following processes and byproducts: Flue gas desulfurization, fly ash, bottom ash, flue gas mercury control, combustion residual leachate from landfills and surface impoundments, nonchemical metal cleaning wastes, and gasification of fuels such as coal and petroleum coke,” the agency wrote.
     The agency also is considering a program to provide incentives from power plants that get rid of the discharge of wastewater or close the surface impoundments that have toxic materials.
     Comments on the agency’s proposals may be submitted before Aug. 6. A public hearing on pretreatment standards will be held on July 9 in the EPA’s East Building in Washington D.C.

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