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Published: Saturday, 12/18/2010

5 environmental groups appeal Bay Shore permit

Five environmental groups Friday appealed FirstEnergy Corp.'s latest permit for its Bay Shore power plant in Oregon, calling the massive fish kills there a travesty that Chris Korleski, outgoing Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director, has "unlawfully and unreasonably" condoned.

"We don't need another stressor on this ecosystem," said Tom Cmar, the lead attorney on the case for two of the plaintiffs, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.

"Bay Shore's been a poster child for the bad behavior of the [power-generating] industry," he said.

The filing was made with the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission, a state panel empowered to overturn Ohio EPA actions.

Other plaintiffs are the Western Lake Erie Association, the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Mr. Korleski and FirstEnergy are the two defendants.

The environmental groups contend the state EPA is failing to meet requirements of the 1972 federal Clean Water Act by allowing FirstEnergy to phase in improvements designed to result in at least 80 percent fewer fish impinged, or slammed up against the plant's intake screens, and 60 percent fewer entrained, or sucked through the plant. Their contentions are to be outlined in greater detail at a news conference Monday.

The Ohio EPA on Nov. 19 extended Bay Shore's wastewater-discharge permit through July 31, 2015, a permit that outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland told a Toledo audience last spring he would be following.

The plant, which sits in a modified estuary where the Maumee River meets western Lake Erie's Maumee Bay, is one of the Great Lakes region's top spots for fish kills.

A FirstEnergy consultant estimates it kills 46 million adult fish and 14 million juveniles a year when the plant is at full capacity. That, according to the Ohio EPA, is more than all Ohio power plants combined.

The utility temporarily idled three of the plant's four units this fall. It is researching the viability of new screens.

FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said the utility believes its new permit is reasonable. It wants more time to study the technology it is testing, he said.

The Ohio EPA had no comment on the appeal.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

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