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Soundkeeper Fights To Save Fish in Sound

NORWALK, Conn. – Millions of fish, crabs, and lobsters are being killed each year in Long Island Sound by aging cooling and netting systems at seven power plants in the coastal waters of New York State and Connecticut.

But Connecticut's Long Island Soundkeeper Terry Backer said a "challenge matching grant" awarded to his office in Norwalk by the Bunting Family Foundation, Inc., of Timonium, Maryland, could help raise up to $75,000 for legal costs needed to force power plant operators to comply with federal regulations and save millions of fish.

The power plants that operate on Long Island Sound – including three in New York State and four in Connecticut -- draw in 5.2 billion gallons of cooling water a year, and then discharge it back into the Sound.

"The problem is that at the older power plants, once-through cooling systems kills marine life by sucking in small fish and their eggs through screens that protect the plant from debris in the cooling water," Backer said.

"The plant's heat is transferred to the water, killing the fish, larvae and eggs. This lifeless soup is then dumped back into the Sound, which also adds to environmental pollution," Backer said. "The waters of Long Island Sound in Westchester, on Long Island and in Connecticut are all being impacted by the needless and wasteful killing of these fish and other marine life forms."

Backer said larger fish and crustaceans are also pinned and killed on the same protective screens.

"The number of fish being killed is staggering," Backer said, adding that his office calculates the Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford, Conn., draws in 2.2 billion gallons of water a day and killed 154 billion fish of seven species in the three decades ending in 2002.

Backer said the power plant in Northport on Long Island draws in 939 million gallons of water a day and also kills millions of fish.The Bunting Foundation issued a $35,000 "one-to-one challenge grant," which means Soundkeeper must raise $35,000 as well. If it does, the foundation will match it and contribute an additional $5,000, bringing the total amount raised to $75,000. Backer said his goal is to raise the funds by the end of the year.

"This grant will allow our (Soundkeeper) office to continue its legal fight and have even more success in changing the way electric power generators do business," Backer said.

Backer said The Clean Water Act mandates that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issue regulations requiring power plants to use the best technology available for their cooling systems. New power plants must use closed-cycle cooling, but EPA has been slow to require changes to existing plants, he said.

What is your view on the efforts by Soundkeeper Terry Backer to force power plants to comply with federal regulations? Please leave a comment below. Richard Weizel can be reached at

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