By Briana Vannozzi
With a push and a paddle, an armada of environmentalists took to the Delaware River for a water protest. They say the state hasn’t stepped in to prevent pollution caused by the nearby Mercer Generating Station.
“We are calling on both PSE&G to retire this plant and on the NJ DEP to enforce the Endangered Species Act and enforce the Clean Water Act,” Director for Environment NJ, Doug O’Malley said.
The coal-burning power plant is operated by PSE&G and located just outside of Trenton. Activists say it’s not just an air polluter, but one of the largest sources for toxic water pollution.
“They need water to help cool off the facility, and so what happens for all power plants is that they suck in a ton of water, in this case millions of gallons, and then they shoot it back out,” O’Malley said.
“Every year it kills more than 70 million different fish and fish larvae and kills more than 30 different species of fish, including now the Atlantic and Bottlenose Sturgeon, which are on the endangered species list,” Jeff Tittel.
Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, says it should close or install cooling towers. That system would reduce the amount of water drawn from the river.
“When they go through they pick up all kinds of pollutants, everything from Lead, Mercury and Cadmium and they just charge that back into the river,” Tittel said. “And what that does is it puts water pollution back into the river, but it can also lead to super heated water, which can lead to fish kills in the summer time in particular.”
“Right here we have Crosswicks Creek. Crosswicks Creek is really interesting because it’s the last creek in the tidal area of the Delaware before it turns non-tidal, and therefore fish that come up the Delaware to spawn, their last stop is the Crosswicks,” said Delaware River outings leader, George Fluck.
Which makes this area especially vulnerable. Margo Pelligrino just completed a paddle from Newark to Chicago, advocating for clean water.
“Where ever I stopped along the way from Newark to Chicago, everyone is well abreast of what is compromising their water, what has polluted their water in the past, what is polluting it now and what threats there are in the future,” Pellegrino said.
PSE&G has committed millions of dollars to mitigate air pollution at the plant in recent years. Neither the company, nor DEP, would return our requests for comment today, but the state has reportedly said it’s reviewing the federal rules.
The kayakers will head up along the Delaware River, passed the Mercer Coal Plant. The Sierra Club has already issued a letter of intent to sue the DEP if the state doesn’t provide more protections.