Considerations for a Hydroelectric Plant in Pittsburgh

Hydroelectric dams offer a sustainable solution compared to fracking, but they are not a perfect solution.

According to Rita Michel from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rye Development of Boston are looking to install a hydroelectric dam below the Highland Park Bridge. She explored some of the possible detriments to a hydroelectric dam through interviews with people involved.

“We will be making sure there will not be an impact to navigation, recreation or water quality,” Ms. Woidas said.” Once the plant becomes operational, it will have no impact on the river’s flow.

“By the time it gets out of the water the velocity is the same as the flow of river,” Mr. Jacobs said.

As Ms. Woidas and Mr. Jacobs mention, some of the problems with hydroelectric dams include a reduction in water quality and flow. I’m wondering how will the river flow not be reduced by the dam like Mr. Jacobs claims? This does not seem possible.

In my research, I found there can be an increase in sediment, and heavy metal concentration, because of hydroelectric dams.  This information is relevant to the Allegheny because of a recent study looking at the shells of mussels in the river.

In an article by Kristina Marusic, from District of Change, she quotes Nathaniel Warner, a co-author of the article who says:

“We think the sediment acts like a reservoir for higher levels of radioactivity and metals, and that’s where the mussels live,” he added, “so this could continue to have even longer-term impacts even though that valve got turned off.”

It is highly probable the dam will increase sediment. This would lead to a higher concentration of heavy metals. In summary the water quality of the Allegheny will not be improved by the installation of the dam. In reality, water quality be negatively affected by the installation of a hydroelectric dam.

Is the source of energy worth the impact on a river already struggling with pollution? This is a situation where the precautionary principle should be applied. The approval process appears to consider many variables. If this is true it is important for water quality to be considered.

You can help by spreading awareness about the hydroelectric dam and the potential negative environmental impacts. It will be interesting to follow how this develops over time. The public could benefit from an increase in information on the considerations during the approval process.






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