DEP To Review Case Related To Millstone Water Discharge Permit

By Patricia Daddona, Published on 6/22/2007

The state Department of Environmental Protection will get two months to review a landmark court case that could lead the agency to revise its proposal to renew a water discharge permit for the Millstone nuclear complex in Waterford.

The DEP is in the middle of a pending application for permit renewal, but asked hearing officer Janice B. Deshais in May to postpone public hearings for three months while the state agency reviews Riverkeeper v. EPA, a four-month-old federal ruling that could alter the way 539 power plants, including nuclear reactors, avoid killing fish while cooling their energy producing systems.

Deshais works out of the DEP's Office of Adjudication, which decides whether permits are issued.

Dominion, the owner of Millstone, which has two operating reactors and one that is shut down, had asked for a one-month suspension of the proceedings, Deshais stated when issuing her ruling.

Deshais ordered the DEP to submit a written report on how it will proceed on Aug. 20, the end of the two-month suspension.

“We will work within the time period granted by the hearing officer,” DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said.

In the court case, decided in January, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to clarify or change its laws involving whether power plants must stop fish kills by using “the best technology available” — a step that could require an expensive technological overhaul at many plants, including Millstone.

At Millstone, the reactors take in water from Long Island Sound to cool steam used to generate electricity. The water flows through a grate, which traps fish and other sea life alive and returns them to the Sound by way of a vertical conveyor belt. The proposed permit, which DEP had tentatively approved, incorporates some new rules to reduce the death of winter flounder larvae.

Millstone's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit originally expired in 1997, but former DEP Commissioner Arthur J. Rocque Jr. allowed the reactors to continue operating under an emergency authorization.