Official: Fish kill not all that unusual

 Herald News 

Official: Dead fish not unusual at power plants
Braidwood Nuclear Power Plant

August 23, 2007

BRACEVILLE — Thousands of fish have gone belly-up recently at the Braidwood cooling lake.

While some local fishermen refer to this as a massive fish kill, Illinois Department of Conservation officials say it is a moderate event.
» Click to enlarge image
Thousands of shads and catfish have died in the Braidwood cooling lakes in an event some local fisherman call a fish kill. A state department of conservation spokesman said it’s not unusual for a large number of fish to die in power plant lakes this time of year.
Submitted photo

“It is not unusual for power plant lakes this time of year,” said Mike Conlin, IDNR spokesman with the Department of Fisheries.

Conlin said the dead fish were shads and catfish.

The heat wave combined with heavy downpours cooled the temperatures of the waters by 10 degrees, according to Paul Dempsey, spokesman for the Exelon Braidwood Nuclear Power Plant. The sudden temperature dip caused the oxygen levels in the waters to drop, suffocating the fish.

“Nothing was released from the plant that would cause something like this to happen,” Dempsey said. Dempsey said Exelon notified the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources “as a courtesy.”

A new law was recently signed by the governor that requires nuclear power plants to immediately report dangerous chemical leaks to government agencies within 24 hours of the release. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Careen Gordon, D-Coal City, and state Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi, D-Joliet, also requires the state agencies to conduct independent inspections rather than rely on in-house inspections conducted by employees of the power plant.

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of tritium have been leaked over the past decade, though Exelon officials maintain there has never been any health threats caused by the leaks on their property and into the cooling lake.

Tritium is a byproduct of nuclear generation and can enter the body through ingestion, absorption or inhalation. Some studies indicate that exposure to tritium increases the risk of cancer, birth defects and genetic damage.

“We check the lake levels every day,” Dempsey said.

A Braceville man, who asked that his name not be used in this story, said it is sad that the power plant operators now consider fish kills an ordinary event in cooling lakes around power plants.

“They can install cooling towers to prevent things like this from happening. They have them in Dresden,” he said. “I am a devoted outdoorsman and think that it is wrong to accept the fact that the fish die like this. I have been coming here for years and have not seen anything like this before.”

Reporter Kim Smith can be reached at (815) 729-6067 or at

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