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EPA Proposes to Deny PREPA Request for Waiver From Cooling Water Temperature Limits

Release Date: 01/10/2005
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For Immediate Release: Monday, January 10, 2005

(#05002) SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Continuing its efforts to safeguard water quality in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it is proposing to deny a Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Exit EPA disclaimerrequest for a waiver from the temperature limits for cooling water that it discharges from its South Coast Power plant. The Agency has determined that the discharge has the potential to harm aquatic life.

Under its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, the South Coast Power plant, located within the municipality of Guayanilla in southern Puerto Rico, is authorized to take in seawater from Guayanilla Bay, as well as discharge wastewater and storm water back into the bay.

"High temperatures can harm important species and the ecosystem," said Kathleen C. Callahan, EPA Acting Regional Administrator. "EPA will work with PREPA to ensure it meets the temperature requirement set by the Commonwealth."

Under the Clean Water Act, the NPDES permit regulations establish 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 wastewater and storm water are discharged through an open canal into a small cove and then into Guayanilla Bay. The temperature of the discharge does not meet Puerto Rico's water quality standards for temperature. EPA understands that PREPA has begun an analysis of the options for addressing the temperature standard requirement.

EPA will renew the required NPDES permit, allowing PREPA to continue discharging, but PREPA must do so at a temperature not exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The NPDES 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.

PREPA operates four large power plants that discharge cooling water under the terms of EPA-issued NPDES permits. PREPA has thermal variances pending at all four plants. The proposed decision on the South Coast plant permit is the first of the four.