Opposition group accuses Greenidge Generation of operating without proper permits; damaging Seneca Lake fishery

The Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes (CPFL) accuses the Greenidge Generating Station of destroying the local fish population and violating the federal Clean Water Act. According to a press release from CPFL, “Greenidge Generating Station is currently operating without any screens or other protections against fish mortality.”

The group further accuses Greenidge of “operating without a water withdrawal permit. The plant applied in 2015 for a permit to take up to 160 million gallons of water per day from (Seneca) Lake, but DEC has not yet issued the permit.”

“The plant’s failure to install any protections is of concern to us,” says Peter Gamba, adding, “Adult fish, young fish, fish eggs, and other aquatic organisms are being drawn into the plant and chopped up as they pass through the plant.” CPFL provided copies of the DEC report on fish mortality studies done in the mid-1970s, the mid- 1990s, and 2006-2007 to The Chronicle-Express to support the group’s claim.

“CPFL’s concern that high levels of fish mortality at the Greenidge plant may be negatively impacting fish in Seneca Lake is one of the key reasons we joined with the Sierra Club and the Coalition to Protect New York in bringing an Article 78 proceeding challenging DEC’s failure to conduct an adequate environmental review of the plant’s operations and are joining in the appeal of the court’s dismissal of our petition,” Gamba says.

However, regarding “Impacts on Plants and Animals,” the State Environmental Quality Review SEQR states, “The project will have no significant adverse impacts on plants or animals.”

It also specifically stipulates installation of wedge-wire intake screens on the cooling water intake structure (CWIS) with a slot size of 0.5 s 1.0 mm, and the installation of variable speed cooling water circulation pumps.

The SEQR statement continues: “The Department has determined that this Best Technology Available (BTA) determination is consistent with applicable regulations. The facility will be required to implement the BTA technologies and achieve an 85 percent reduction in the entrainment of all fish life stages and a 95 percent reduction in impingement mortality of all fish life stages.”

DEC Public Participation Specialist Linda J. Vera explains, “The facility is currently operating under an existing State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit in effect under provisions of the State Administrative Procedures Act (SAPA). DEC has prepared a draft SPDES permit that, once issued, will require installation of screening equipment to reduce fish mortality. The draft permit was subject to a public review and comment period.

“The facility has submitted a timely and complete application for an initial water withdrawal permit, and is entitled to continue operation of the existing water withdrawal system until DEC renders a decision on the application. A decision on the initial water withdrawal permit application will be issued concurrent with the modified SPDES permit.”