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EPA Requires New Pipe at PREPA South Coast; Grants Water Discharge Permit

Release Date: 08/25/2009
Contact Information: John Senn (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov or Jose Font (787) 977-5815, font.jose@epa.gov

(San Juan, P.R.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it has renewed a water discharge permit, called a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which allows the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to discharge water from its South Coast power plant into Guayanilla Bay. The permit, a draft of which was released for public review last September, requires PREPA to build a longer pipe to move the discharge of warm water into a deeper and cooler part of the bay, so it will not adversely impact marine life.

“Constructing a new outfall pipe will provide a long-term solution that will protect aquatic life and the surrounding ecosystem," said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “We have carefully considered the alternatives, met with the Guayanilla community and received input from the general public during the decision-making process for this permit.”

Under the Clean Water Act, permit requirements specify rigorous effluent limitations and monitoring requirements to protect human health and the environment. At the South Coast plant, an average of 870 million gallons per day of cooling water and trace amounts of treated wastewater and stormwater are discharged through an open canal into a small cove and then into Guayanilla Bay. The temperature of the discharge exceeds Puerto Rico's water quality standards.

Under the permit, PREPA must construct an outfall discharge pipe offshore so that the warm water can mix with the ocean’s colder water in order to meet the water quality standard for temperature (90 F, 32.2 C). This new outfall pipe will replace the discharge canal that currently empties into the cove at the shoreline. PREPA must also submit progress reports every six months, and the permit contains a compliance schedule with several interim milestones that must be met during the period leading up to construction of the new discharge pipe. PREPA will also develop a construction mitigation plan to minimize environmental impacts during the construction of the new pipe; the plan may include requirements for PREPA to transplant sea grasses and grow new coral in other locations.

The water discharge permit also requires that the location, design, construction and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available to protect aquatic organisms from being killed or injured by being pinned against screens or other parts of the intake structure. Additionally, it sets requirements to prevent aquatic life from being drawn into cooling water systems and subjected to thermal, physical or chemical stresses.

For more details about EPA’s environmental efforts in Puerto Rico, visit: http://www.epa.gov/Region2/cepd/prlink.htm. For more about EPA’s municipal storm water permitting program visit: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/munic.cfm.

For a Google Earth aerial view of the South Coast power plant go to: http://epa.gov/region2/kml/prepa_south_coast_power_plant.kml.
(You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html).

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2 .

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