The aging Midwest Generation plants suck up nearly every drop of the Chicago and Lower Des Plaines Rivers to cool their massive equipment, then churn it back out as hot as bathwater, sometimes hotter than 100 degrees. Illinois has banned the process at newer plants because it can kill fish or discourage them from sticking around.MG's logic is that keeping the rivers hot would pose a barrier to "Asian carp and other invasive species." Scientists disagree, not least because the Asian carp likes warm water.
State regulators are proposing new temperature limits that could force the utility to spend up to $800 million on equipment upgrades, which would curb the amount of warm water pumped into the waterways. But the power company's executives contend there are more benefits than drawbacks from keeping the rivers hotter than normal.
They even suggest that killing all of the fish in the rivers might be a good thing.
As surprising as I find the proposition that it's in society's best interest to keep a river's temperature at or near 100 degrees, I'm even more impressed with MG's argument that the presence of pollutants is an argument against environmental clean-up:
During a recent presentation to environmental regulators, they argued that the government should give up trying to improve water quality, illustrating their point with slides showing tons of slimy garbage skimmed off intake pipes at the power plants.You know what I love about American industry? Its can-do, forward-looking, never-say-die spirit. That, and its unblushing evil.
Incidentally, May 12th is the 15th annual Chicago River Day. Almost 4,000 volunteers will be working to clean sites along 100 miles of the river. At the risk of sounding like an extremist, it might not be a bad idea to chain a few top MG executives together at the ankle, and have them pitch in.
(Photo: A solid crust of pollution over the Chicago River, circa 1901. Via Of Time and the River.)