The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a Clean Water Act permit for a proposed 50 megawatt Biomass power plant in Russell. The plant requires water from the Westfield River and would also discharge water back into the river. According to developers, Russell Biomass would provide western Massachusetts with electricity equivalent to an oil-fired plant that burns 480,000 barrels of oil per year. The plant would use forest wood and other wood products. But Jana Chicoine the spokesperson for Concerned Citizens of Russell says her group and other groups paying attention to the health of the Westfield submitted evidence to the EPA detailing the dangers of allowing a plant to operate along the river.
“This is a very stressed river with a very low flow in the summer, and it’s over a gravel aquifer so a lot of the water is underneath at that point. The EPA has issued a permit for Russell Biomass to further harm this very stressed ecosystem in the river, and they received testimony from dozens of experts to that effect.”
The EPA’s permit limits the proposed facility’s discharge of heat and other effluents to the water, and it contains monitoring requirements to ensure the protection of aquatic organisms and habitat quality in the river. the permit also requires monthly monitoring of aluminum levels and limits on phosphorus levels.The permit was first requested by developers in 2009. Chicoine says her group will appeal the EPA’s decision.