Contact: Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795


(10/P1) TRENTON * The Department of Environmental Protection has proposed a draft water-discharge permit that calls for Exelon Generation Company, owner of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township, to build a closed-cycle cooling system to protect aquatic life in the Barnegat Bay ecosystem, Acting Commissioner Mark N. Mauriello announced today.

"The use of cooling towers would result in a much healthier bay," Commissioner Mauriello said. "A healthier bay means a better quality of life for the region's residents as well as improved recreational experiences for those who visit to swim, fish, crab, watch wildlife * or to simply soak up the bay's beauty."

The DEP has determined that a closed-cycle cooling system consisting of cooling towers is the best available technology consistent with the federal Clean Water Act. The DEP is proposing the system be built as a condition for renewal of the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit the nuclear plant needs to operate.

The DEP recognizes the proposal involves complex issues and will result in extensive public interest. The DEP will carefully weigh all viewpoints as it begins a comprehensive public comment process.

The plant currently discharges water heated during electricity generation into a canal that is connected to Barnegat Bay. The new cooling system will significantly reduce the amount of water the plant needs to draw from the canal, thereby reducing impacts to aquatic life. It will also reduce the temperature of water discharged into the canal.

Studies have determined that the trapping of aquatic organisms against intake screens at existing cooling water intakes and the actual intake of organisms into the system impacts a wide array of species, including bay anchovy, winter flounder, weakfish, Atlantic menhaden, shrimp, blue crab, eel grass and hard clams. Plant discharges have resulted in fish kills associated with cold shock. This occurs when plant shutdowns cut off the flow of hot water into the canal.

The DEP will hold public hearings on Wednesday, Feb. 24, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Lacey Township Municipal Building, 818 West Lacey Road, Forked River; and on Wednesday, March 3, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the DEP Public Hearing Room, 401 East State Street, Trenton.

The DEP will accept written public comments until March 15. Comments may be sent to Pilar Patterson, Chief of the Bureau of Surface Water Permitting, P.O. Box 029; Trenton, NJ 08625.