U.S. Water News Online
SAN FRANCISCO -- A state official says Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s $14 million settlement sends a stern message to companies that fail to accurately report environmental impact studies.
The utility was accused of submitting "incomplete and misleading data" involving the amount of fish larvae killed at the Diablo Canyon plant's water cooling systems. The settlement Tuesday was the largest ever involving violations of the federal Clean Water Act, officials said.
"This case unfortunately points to a disconnect between their management systems and their leadership values," said James Strock, director of the state Environmental Protection Agency. "The issue of data integrity is very important. The data has to be bulletproof." Strock said companies should "no doubt take this data violation very seriously."
The suit, filed by Attorney General Dan Lungren's office, claimed PG&E withheld reports for more than eight years at the plant near San Luis Obispo. The suit alleged that PG&E misled environmental regulators and omitted test results about the effectiveness of measuring sea life organisms at the system's outflow.
Despite the costly settlement, Diablo Canyon spokesman Jeff Lewis said the data was justly omitted. "There was sampling data that was omitted. Our employees felt it was flawed," Lewis said. "In retrospect we wish we had put it forth and explained why we felt it was invalid. We don't believe there's been any measurable environmental damage. We don't see an adverse effect."
Diablo Canyon's cooling system sucks in millions of larval fish, no larger than five-eighths of one inch, while handling 2.45 billions gallons of water a day.
San Francisco-based PG&E; will conduct a new series of studies on the cooling system's impact on sea life, overseen by engineers and hydrologists. That process is expected to take up to three years, and Lewis predicted the results will vindicate his company's sampling process.
Of the $14 million settlement, $5.1 million will be paid to the State Water Resources Control Board. Another $3.7 million will be used for environmental protection and enhancement in the Morro Bay area. And $2.5 million will go to San Jose State University's Mussel Watch Program, which monitors water quality by studying pollutants in mussels throughout the state.
The settlement will not interrupt Diablo Canyon's operations, officials said. (AP)
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