Power plants killing millions of Great Lakes fish every year

Jun 16, 2011

Power plants around the region are responsible for killing hundreds of millions of fish each year, according to an investigative report from the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune's environmental reporter, Michael Hawthorne, looked at thousands of pages of industry reports documenting fish kills obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Hawthorne reports that the reports "highlight a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem that has largely gone unaddressed for years."

Here are some of the findings - from the Chicago Tribune:

The fish killed at the Point Beach nuclear plant north of Manitowoc, Wis., reduce the yield of Lake Michigan's fisheries by an estimated 10,625 pounds a year, or about 4.5 percent of the annual commercial fishing catch by weight.

Across Lake Michigan from Chicago, the Cook nuclear plant near Benton Harbor, Mich., kills more than 1.3 million fish annually, most of which are yellow perch. An additional 196 million eggs and other organisms die each year inside the plant's cooling system. In Waukegan, the lone Illinois power plant on the lake kills up to 5.2 million fish a year.

On Lake Erie, the Bay Shore coal plant near Toledo, Ohio, kills 46 million adult fish and more than 2.4 billion eggs, larvae and young fish each year in the region's most prolific spawning grounds. Less than 15 miles away, the Monroe coal plant in Michigan each year kills more than 25 million fish and 499 million eggs and other organisms on the western edge of the lake.

Hawthorne reports that the process of passing water through a power plant to cool equipment, known as "once-through" cooling, is banned at new power plants.... "but for nearly four decades, federal and state environmental regulators largely have ignored the issue at old plants, even as fish populations decline sharply throughout the lakes and states spend millions of taxpayer dollars to stock the waters with game fish."