The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 18, 2008

Can Concord River handle power plant water needs?

On July 9 the state Department of Public Utilities Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) re-opened its hearing on the proposal to construct a 138-Megawatt power plant in North Billerica in order to permit the developers to answer further questions about the proposed facility’s water consumption. The proposal has been under local and state review to consider possible effects on air and water, traffic and noise levels. Montgomery Electric, LLC, submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) to the state last September and a decision by the EFSB is expected in the near future.

The proposed Billerica Energy Center (BEC) is to operate up to 2,300 hours per year, or six hours a day, during times of peak energy demand, and will be powered by natural gas, with low-sulfur diesel backup fuel. The site is about six miles from Carlisle center, on an industrial-zoned site at the intersection of Town Farm Road and Billerica Avenue near the Concord River, close to the borders ofTewksbury and Chelmsford. The project is being carried out by Montgomery Energy, with assistance from DG Clean Power, LLC. Besides the six Rolls Royce combustion turbine generators, each with an 80-foot stack, the facility will include a half-million-gallon fuel-oil tank, three half-million-gallon water-storage tanks and a 50,000-gallon tank for aqueous ammonia.

On June 24 Billerica’s consultants, Environmental Health and Engineering of Needham, submitted their report that said the plant would essentially meet state guidelines for pollution control, “EH&E concludes that the BEC will comply with all environmental regulations and is unlikely to cause or contribute to an exceedance of pollution standards or regulatory benchmarks.”

However, the consultants called for additional consideration of several points, particularly that projected water needs of Billerica and the proposed plant are estimated to exceed the permitted withdrawal rate from the Concord River by 2011. The plan is to use water from three sources: the Billerica public water supply (which uses Concord River water), gray water from the Billerica wastewater treatment facility and trucked-in water when necessary. According to the DEIR, the water usage is expected to be over 60 million gallons per year.

According to DG Clean Power President and CEO Joseph Fitzpatrick, the siting board was scheduled to meet again on Thursday, July 17, after the Mosquito went to press, and was expected to speak with the Billerica Director of Public Works and state Department of Environmental Protection representatives about the water supply question. Fitzpatrick said that his firm is in the process of drafting an agreement with Billerica to clarify limitations on water usage and stipulate mitigation measures.

The Billerica Planning Board is scheduled to consider the project informally on July 28. The Planning Board will review issues such as traffic, parking and setbacks. ∆


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