Plant Hammond water intake

The water intake structure at Plant Hammond on the Coosa River. / Joe Cook - Coosa River Basin Initiative

A judge has instructed the state’s Environmental Protection Division should impose interim measures at Plant Hammond’s water intake to reduce the number of fish killed.

According to a Coosa River Basin Initiative press release:

An administrative law judge ruled the Georgia Environmental Protection Division must improve permit conditions by selecting a stop-gap measures to reduce the number of fish and aquatic species killed annually at Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond at its cooling water intake.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision that Georgia EPD must finally reduce Plant Hammond’s adverse impacts on the Coosa River in the near term, rather than further delaying improvements,” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, Executive Director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative.

Plant Hammond can withdraw approximately 600 million gallons of water per day from the Coosa River for cooling purposes. The force of that withdrawal pins tens of thousands of fish against its cooling water intake structure screens annually and sucks in smaller organisms and fish eggs within the plant itself.

A 2006 study concluded that Hammond’s intake structure led to the death of nearly 60,000 fish annually.

The Clean Water Act requires permits contain conditions to minimize these harms using Best Technology Available practices.

Last December, EPD issued a Clean Water Act permit for Plant Hammond that did not require interim improvements to the cooling water intake structure. The CRBI, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, challenged the permit.

“This failure has enabled Plant Hammond to continue withdrawing water from the Coosa River through an outdated cooling water intake structure that needlessly kills and injures aquatic life on the river,” the release stated.

The permit will be sent back to EPD to impose interim BTA practices.

“We will continue to closely monitor the permit to confirm that EPD will fulfill its obligations, so that these harmful impacts are substantively addressed at long last,” said Hutton Brown, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.