On May 20, 2014, an important component of Charles River Watershed Association’s (CRWA) and Conservation Law Foundation’s (CLF) settlement of the GenOn Kendall Cogeneration Plant’s (now owned by Veolia North America) Clean Water Act discharge permit became a reality. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Museum of Science, Veolia commemorated its “Green Steam” project, which includes the completion of a 7,000-foot steam pipeline extension from its Cambridge plant to Boston, and a planned reconfiguration of the combined heat and power plant. The pipeline connection and the planned reconfiguration will eliminate thermal discharge of heated water from the plant into the Charles. Previously, the plant discharged approximately 70 million gallons of heated water into the Charles daily, a volume often equal to the entire flow of the river during summer months.
CRWA and CLF began negotiations with the plant about the heated discharge in 1998, when then-owner Southern Energy upgraded the Kendall Square Station. CLF and CRWA argued that the plant’s discharge of heated water into Charles not only destroyed aquatic habitat, fish and other wildlife, but was also partly responsible for toxic algal blooms in the Charles River Lower Basin. It took CRWA and CLF over a decade of negotiations with first Southern Energy, followed by successive companies Mirant and GenOn, for the plant to develop a co-generation plan that ended the heated water discharge to the river. During this time, CRWA worked closely with GenOn’s Shawn Konary, who was the plant representative responsible for the new technology.
“Veolia is to be commended for the construction of the new pipe that carries the steam into Boston,” said Bob Zimmerman, CRWA’s Executive Director. “This is an innovative, energy-generating, and river friendly solution that should serve as a model for other cities.”
In addition to minimizing environmental impacts to the Charles River, Veolia’s plan to now capture and reuse heat will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the cities of Boston and Cambridge. For more information on Veolia’s “Green Steam” project, visit their website or read the company's recent press release.