Chesterton Tribune

Save the Dunes wants IDEM to toughen NIPSCO's Bailly Station discharge permit

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Save the Dunes is asking the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to toughen the conditions of NIPSCO’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for its Bailly Generating Station, whose outfall effluent crosses several hundred feet of beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

In comments submitted to IDEM on June 11, Save the Dunes made note in particular of several issues:

•The Bailly Generating Station’s outfall across a beach to which the public has access and where folks “participate in full-body contact and recreation with the effluent stream” is “of serious public health concern.” Save the Dunes believes that “the public is put at risk by this effluent stream from the release of toxic substances and high-water temperatures which could occur due to equipment malfunction or routine operations.”

•The beach in question is also “known to provide a habitat for the Piping Plover”—an endangered bird “under the U.S. Endangered Species Act”—during migration. “It is expected that the beach could one day provide habitat for breeding populations of the bird but further restoration is needed.”

•Save the Dunes expresses as well its fear that the draft NPDES permit submitted by NIPSCO “will not adequately address possible PCB and mercury contamination from the facility.”

Save the Dunes is thus asking IDEM to make the NPDES permit more stringent in a number of ways. First, the permit should formally establish a deadline for implementation of a NIPSCO plan—involving a system of sheet pile banks and bank fencing—to contain the outfall across the National Lakeshore beach. “NIPSCO specifically should be responsible that the route of the effluent does not cross (the National Lakeshore’s) beach and that adequate signage and/or physical barriers protect the public from direct contact with the undiluted effluent.”

Second, although Save the Dunes notes that there have been no violations of NIPSCO’s “streamlined mercury variance limit” granted by IDEM in 2011, more frequent monitoring for mercury should be considered and additional measures required for “employee awareness and education and accidental release prevention.”

Third, at a minimum annual testing of PCBs should be required by the NPDES permit.

Fourth, the need for a “monitoring regime for aluminum” should be assessed.

Finally, NIPSCO should be required to release to the public, in its entirely, the Bailly Generating Station’s Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan.

Save the Dunes did make a point, in its submission to IDEM, to thank NIPSCO “for meeting with us to discuss the permit in detail as we prepared our comments.”

NIPSCO

“Save the Dunes, as well as IDEM and (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), are an important part of the permit renewal process and we’re working together on a solution that best protects the public and environment,” said NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer. “This is very much a collaborative process, taking into account input from all parties, and we’re reaching a consensus.”

“Save the Dunes’ filed comments make reference to their belief that our plan would adequately protect the public,” Meyer added. “We’re all in agreement regarding the short-term plan for additional signage and we’re working together on a plan to properly and effectively add physical barriers.”

On the subject of outflow, Meyer said, “Discussions are ongoing about the best way to effectively address that issue and identify a sustainable solution.”

Meyer did observe that, since the current mercury rules have been in effect, NIPSCO has “never been in violation” of them. “We’re continuing to ratchet down (the mercury levels) and we have among the lowest levels along the lake—so much that we’re very close to background levels that already exist.”

Finally, Meyer said, NIPSCO is “sensitive” to the Piping Plover issue. “Save the Dunes expects that the beach could one day provide a habitat for Piping Plover but restoration is required. We want to be part of that solution and it’s part of our plan.”

 

Posted 6/26/2012