CHICAGO, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- As Illinois power plants release more hot water into lakes and rivers already stressed by drought, environmentalists say they're worried by record fish deaths.
State officials have given power plants special exemptions to release massive amounts of hotter than usual water, exemptions operators say are necessary to provide adequate power to meet energy demands from air conditioning in one of the hottest summers on record, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.
The practice has environmentalists concerned for temperature-sensitive fish they said have already have been swimming deeper to find cooler water or abandoning their usual habitats during the heat and drought.
While a record number of fish kills around the state have been detected this year, Debbie Bruce of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said, power plants have not been linked directly to any of them.
"We've seen fish kills everywhere this summer. It's not anything that can be helped," she said.
Power companies said any reduction of power generation capacity could bring a crisis.
"Do you want people to start dying, or do you want to save some fish?" said Julia Wozniak, of Midwest Generation, whose job is to make sure the plants remain in compliance with thermal emission limitations.
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