The Citizens Advisory Committee of the Center for the Inland Bays is keeping steadfast to their priorities on cleaning up the Inland Bays watershed. At their August meeting, in continuing their advocacy for cooling tower technology at the Indian River Power Plant to reduce fish kills, for cleaning up present coal ash piles “by the best scientific way as soon as possible” and expressing their position on land use, CAC members put those priorities on the table.
CAC members last week discussed their next move on House Concurrent Resolution 7, which addressed cooling-tower technology statewide, and voted to pass a resolution to support expediting the clean-up process at the Delmarva and Phase I landfills at the Indian River Generating Station near Millsboro.
“The power plant is right in the center of our watershed,” said CAC Secretary Martha Keller. “That’s why we are so concerned about it,” she said, referencing the two CAC priorities that relate to the power plant.
They also voted to take a position on the county’s lawsuit against the state concerning the Pollution Control Strategy and expressed plans to educate state legislators and civilian groups on the status of water quality in the bays as compared to EPA standards.
House Concurrent Resolution 7, which had previously passed Delaware’s House Natural Resources Subcommittee, and in both House and Senate committees, originally urged all companies operating in Delaware waters that use cooling water intakes, such as the Indian River Power Plant, and Valero upstate, to use closed-cycle systems, to protect fish and crabs.
But HCR7’s final passage came with a significant amendment. The language of the legislation changed to urge that all facilities adopt “closed cycle” cooling systems – “or other cooling water technologies which adequately address fish and aquatic environmental concerns at such facilities.”
State Sen. George Bunting Jr. (D-20th, Bethany Beach) was a co-sponsor of the original HCR7 and was one of those who voted against the amendment offered by Sen. Patricia Blevins (D-7th, Elsmere).
“That sounds great,” he said of the language in the amendment, “but the best technology is the [closed-cycle] cooling tower.”
The resolution passed by the CAC and the CIB board states, “Each year, millions of fish and an estimated 400,000 blue crabs are killed through entrainment and impingement as a result of the ‘once-through cooling process.’”
The groups are steadfast in wanting to get a more definitive resolution passed, and Keller said this week that getting the resolution passed, albeit with amendments, was “only the beginning of our fight.”
“The next six months, we need letters of support, phone calls, and we are asking you to show up at hearings, etc. ‘There’s no substitute for showing up.’ You’ve all heard that.”
CAC member Harry Haon offered to CAC Chair Ron Wuslish that he and Bunting needed to take credit for all that they had done regarding the cooling towers in the proposed resolution. “[Legislators] know something needs to be done, and that’s great progress.”
CAC continues opposition to county lawsuit
The CAC also voted last week to adopt a position statement regarding Sussex County land use. In it, they state, “The CAC urges the county to drop its lawsuit and work side by side with DNREC to achieve ‘fishable and swimmable’ designations for each of the Inland Bays.”
The CAC voted unanimously to accept the position statement before Rick Eakle, chairman of the CIB board, cautioned the CAC not to adopt anything before making sure it was consistent with how the board voted.
The CIB board voted to take a neutral position regarding the lawsuit, as they are in the position of having both representatives from Sussex County and from DNREC on their board and said they didn’t want to have taken a position should they be called to testify on something technical or scientific.
“I’m just saying you might not want to come out and say something that is inconsistent with what the board said,” repeated Eakle.
“Define ‘come out,’” countered Keller.
“We are not asking the board to reconsider their position,” emphasized Haon.
Bill Moyer offered, “I don’t understand how it could be inconsistent with their position if they didn’t take a position.”
CAC member Shirley Price asked what the plans were for the statement after the CAC vote. “What are we going to do with it? That’s the question.”
Wuslich answered that, if the CAC voted to approve it, it would be read in the minutes of the CIB board meeting.
“I’m not trying to talk you out of what you feel strongly about as a sub-committee of the board,” said Eakle. “If the board agrees the CAC should go to the county, that’s perfectly fine.”
Sussex County Council Member Joan Deaver said that, in the beginning, the county council had opposition to filing the lawsuit but has not heard much from citizens since.
“We are under the impression that you don’t care,” she said. “We have not heard any comments since that first week.”
Ed Whereat of the University of Delaware Citizen Monitoring Program interjected that, if most people thought the lawsuit was a done deal and was going ahead regardless, that might account for the lack of public opinion. Asked if letters were not as effective as in-person opposition, Deaver answered “no.”
“We have so much to read,” said Deaver. She said it made more of a difference when people showed up at county council meetings and spoke at the public participation portion of those meetings.
Keller reminded the CAC that they need to speak as individuals.
Committee urges stepped-up timetable for ash mitigation
The CAC also voted unanimously last week to present a resolution to the CIB board concerning coal-ash mitigation for the Phase I and Delmarva landfills at Indian River Generating Station.
Citing concerns about the health effects of contaminants in coal ash and the ultimate effect on groundwater, and citing the recent accident in Tennessee and one locally, they decided to ask that the clean-up be sped up from its original two-year timeframe to no later than October of 2010. They had originally stated “in one year,” and CIB board Rick Eakle advised them that, if a specific date were inserted, it might make the action plan that much stronger for when they presented it to the board.
The resolution action plan reads, “Now therefore inasmuch as the Inland Bays are designated as waters of Exceptional Recreational and Ecological Significance, the CAC wishes to point out that the current restoration timeline, i.e., two years for NRG to propose a comprehensive remediation plan, followed by one year for DNREC to evaluate it, lacks a sufficient sense of urgency. The CAC believes this timeline should be significantly shortened.”
They also asked that the mitigation planning be removed from the discretion of NRG and placed in the hands of “a panel of scientific experts in the field of coal ash recovery/restoration.”
Also at the August CAC meeting:
• The CAC heard from Ed Whereat of the University of Delaware Citizen’s Monitoring Program, which monitors dissolved oxygen, nutrient concentrations, water clarity, bacteria levels and other environmental data. Other programs include the Broadkill River Monitoring Program, the Harmful Algae Monitoring Program and the Bacteria Monitoring Program. For more information, visit http://citizen-monitoring.udel.edu.
• The CAC re-elected Ron Wuslish as chairman, Harry Haon as vice-chair and Martha Keller as secretary/treasurer.