Good Millstone permit longtime coming

It took an outrageously long time to come to a reasonable decision about how best to regulate the water sucked from and discharged into Niantic Bay by Millstone Power Station.

President Bill Clinton was still in the White House and John G. Rowland the governor of Connecticut when the water permit for the nuclear power station in Waterford expired 12 years ago. Now, finally, a state Department of Environmental Protection hearing officer, Janis Deshais, has recommended the permit renewal with specific conditions.

The decision is the result of a compromise between Millstone operator Dominion Nuclear Connecticut and two environmental organizations. DEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Frechette is expected to give final approval after her review of permit requirements.

A 2004 Environmental Protection Agency regulation requires large power plants to use the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impacts when drawing from and discharging water to bays and rivers. The new permit would require Millstone to switch to the best technology within a reasonable time.

Environmental groups are most concerned about the plant's impact on winter flounder and other marine life, as larvae and small creatures are killed when 2 billion gallons of water flows daily into the plant.

By next January, Millstone must demonstrate it can reduce the amount of water it draws from the bay by 40 percent during the six-week peak winter flounder spawning season in early spring. A utility spokesman said water-reduction equipment will be in place at both its reactors by this spring.

By 2012 the utility must complete an evaluation of various cooling options to determine which would cause the least environmental damage. DEP would then dictate which one Millstone must install. This could lead to construction of a closed-cycle recirculation system that reuses water, rather than keeps drawing and returning it to the bay.

Plant operators also must determine if fine-mesh intake screens could reduce damage to flounder larvae and study ways to help rebuild the flounder population.

Both Soundkeeper Inc. and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, two environmental groups that have long sought tougher water use restrictions on the plant, expressed satisfaction with the recommended permit requirements.

The process took far too long, but at least in the end it worked.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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