Welcome to the Twilight Zone of Arkansas environmental regulation. The Department of Environmental Quality held a hearing last night for a wastewater discharge permit for a coal-fired power plant, SWEPCO's Turk Plant, that's probably at the billion-dollar-construction mark already.
ADEQ surely will roll over on this anyway. But the Sierra Club was there, arguing that the water — from elevated temperature and toxins — would contaminate the Little River.
SIERRA CLUB RELEASE
Yesterday evening, Sierra Club volunteers spoke out to protect Arkansas’ water quality at a public hearing held by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) on whether to grant the Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES). The draft NPDES permit, if authorized, would allow the proposed John W. Turk coal plant to discharge contaminated water, in terms of elevated temperature as well as toxins, into the Little River thereby putting at risk the health of the ecosystem in southern Arkansas.
Lev Guter, Associate Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club, stated, “The wastewater from Turk would contaminate the Little River and jeopardize endangered aquatic life as well as the public health of Arkansans who recreate and live near the Little River. Turk would poison the water supply with a host of heavy metals including mercury and lead. We need to protect our rivers from contamination, since rivers are the lifeblood of ecosystems that provide our food and water.”
The Little River provides habitat for species listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act such as the Ouachita Rock Pocketbook mussel. Yet Turk, if allowed, would discharge water with elevated temperatures, up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, threatening the health of the species. The draft permit identifies 86 degrees Fahrenheit as the maximum temperature at which the Little River can maintain health. Yet, mixing in Turk’s proposed 95 degree water would easily put the Little River over the acceptable temperature limit, especially on days where the river is naturally already at the 86 degree mark. USGS data shows that the Little River has been at or over 86 degrees 13 times between 1967 and 1995, the period for which data was collected.