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Lake Erie Power Plant Targeted in Fish Kill Case

December 22, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Conservationists want a Lake Erie power plant near Toledo to change its ways, and now they're taking the battle to court. Environmental groups have filed a legal challenge against recently-issued U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits that they say allow First Energy's Bay Shore Power plant to continue using methods that put a strain on the ecosystem, instead of updating their equipment.

Thom Cmar, an attorney for the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, says that, according to data from First Energy itself, the plant's current practices are killing nearly 126,000 fish per day.

"They kill as many fish in the western basin of Lake Erie as all the other Ohio power plants combined. 46 million fish are slammed against the intake streams of the cooling water structure. Over two billion fish eggs, larvae, and juvenile fish are sucked into the plant itself."

The Bay Shore power plant is located in Maumee Bay, which supports an estimated $1.4 billion annual fishing economy. The final permit for Bay Shore allows the facility to use a reverse louvered system, but Lake Erie charter boat captain Paul Pacholski says louvers are shown to be one of the least-effective ways to control the fish kill.

"The permit actually legalizes the kill of all these fish, and in a time of tough fishing when numbers are down right now, it would really help to have every fish that's available in the food chain."

The federal Clean Water Act requires companies to use the best available technology to reduce their environmental impacts. The lawsuit would force First Energy to install cooling towers, which the groups say would reduce the fish losses up to 95 percent. First Energy says the utility believes its new permit is reasonable. The Ohio EPA has not commented on the appeal.

The lawsuit was filed by the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Western Lake Erie Waterkeepers Association, the Ohio Environmental Council and the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH