A friend of McHenry County Blog has been researching various aspects of the Oakwood Hills power plant. This is the first of several analyses that will be published.
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In reference to potential waste water usage, the term ‘grey water’ should be replaced by the term ‘ treated effluent’ throughout article. Thanks to astute readers for correction comments.
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WATER USAGE by 430 Megawatt Power generation facility proposed in Oakwood Hills
If Oakwood Hills grants a zoning variance to Enventure Partners for purpose of building a power plant, the impact will be felt far beyond the above-ground borders of that tiny municipality.
Illinois law allows water-mining rights according to the ‘reasonable-use doctrine’, and reasonable use for a 430 megawatt combined cycle natural gas fired electrical generation plant range from 200-1100 gallons per megawatt hour.
At the low end of the range, if the plant runs 24 hours a day, the plant must use:
200 (gallons/megawatt per hour) x 24 (hours) x 430 (megawatts) = 2,064,000 gallons (per 24h day).
At the high end of the range: 1100 x 24 x 4 30=11,352,000 gallons (per 24h day).
So the power plant will have the capacity to use 2-11 mgd; by comparison, all of Crystal Lake uses 4.9 mgd.
Enventure Partners stated their intention at the July 22 ‘open house’ to the public, which took place 2 days before a scheduled zoning board of appeals hearing to vote on Enventure’s conditional use permit or zoning variance petition.
Quote on an Enventure poster: ” Utilize as much treated effluent from local wastewater treatment plants (WWTP’s) as is economically feasible to conserve well water from deep aquifers with the goal of reducing well water requirements to a negligible amount” (emphasis added to “as is economically feasible”).
Another poster made clear they intend to start running the power plant using well water drawn from the local deep aquifer which contains drinking-quality water.
If ‘grey water’ from municipal waste treatment plants is to be used by this privately owned power plant, the following questions must be answered:
- Who will pay for the infrastructure to pipe water to and from the doorstep of this privately owned business?
- How will easements to dig up and install pipelines through citizen’s property be obtained?
- Who will be responsible for the costs of maintenance and repairs to this infrastructure built for the sole purpose of servicing the power plant?
- What about additional personnel and compliance costs at municipal wastewater treatment facilities which would supply the plant, would that also be a taxpayer expense?
- What legal mechanism would enforce the use of ‘greywater’ rather than groundwater by this privately owned facility, if groundwater (well water) is more economical (profitable) for them to use?
- What diminution of surface and groundwater recharge will result from grey water discharge by WWTP’s being lost?
- Who will be liable for damage to groundwater supply if ground water used for drinking is contaminated due to leakage of pipes carrying water from WWTP’s to the power plant’s doorstep?
Oakwood Hills cannot presume that the citizens of neighboring towns and McHenry County will be willing to assume the costs and risks of supplying ‘treated effluent’ to a private business’s doorstep.
Oakwood Hills must analyze this conditional use permit petition under the assumption that the power plant will be drawing the maximum amount of groundwater allowed by law, and that amount is in a range which may exceed the entire water consumption of Crystal Lake, daily.
Wellhead ‘interference’, cones of depression caused by large scale water pumping, may affect Crystal Lake water supply drawn from Ironton-Galesville aquifer.
Homeowners on private wells throughout McHenry County may be affected by Enventure Partners water mining, as a function of hydraulic conductivity and transmissivity toward a pumping well.
Analysis of complex issues surrounding high volume water pumping of groundwater (2-11 mgd), consideration of how many years it takes to ‘recharge’ a deep aquifer, or economic
Oakwood Hills has so far only allowed receipt of information presented by petitioners for consideration, and this information is selectively chosen to support petitioner’s case.
For example, petitioners failed to mention that massive water use does not have to occur in a nat-gas fired power plant.
Dry cooling technology is available which uses virtually no water, but it costs more to install, and reduces operating profit margins by 5%-10%.
Why would McHenry County want to give away, for zero remuneration, a valuable commodity such as water, which in other parts of the country is a saleable commodity?
McHenry County is landlocked and entirely dependent on groundwater to sustain life.
Enventure Partners is seeking a zoning variance which would effectively grant this single privately owned business water-mining rights to a significant percentage of the deep aquifer water reserve which is the only feasible fallback source of survival for citizens throughout the County.
Water is a valuable resource presumably owned in common by all landowners in McHenry County; the conscription/giveaway of this communally owned precious asset by a tiny landmass called Oakwood Hills is of grave concern to homeowners beyond its borders.
Oakwood Hills officials must not rule on the zoning variance petition without performing due diligence on threats to our water supply, or the municipality and County will inherit enormous liability for consequences of foreseeable circumstances they promote.
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(Industry standard water use assumptions)
(Crystal Lake drinking water usage)
(Water usage in 2011 legal opinion article)
(“Study Shows McHenry County Water Supplies May Not Suffice in Future” Scott Meyer, January 7,2014)
(more info from source cited above)
Studies have been conducted by McHenry County and Isws .Illinois.edu which should be examined and interpreted by objective water engineering experts, and results conveyed to decision-making boards.
(Dry cooling systems, zero liquid discharge)
If the reader Googles this search term: “siting gas fired power plants”, an article of that title written by Enventure Partners Director Conrad Anderson will be near the top. ***
(Liability to municipalities and counties is highlighted by case of a private property insurance company suing to recover damages for ‘foreseeable circumstances’ created by county or municipal negligence)