Archives for posts with tag: Pennsylvania

From iWatch:

Stand before the pond known here in southwestern Pennsylvania as Little Blue Run, and you’ll see nothing that resembles its bucolic-sounding name.

The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant. The pond spans nearly 1,000 acres of rolling, rural landscape in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Millions of tons of coal ash have landed in the 35-year-old dump, looming over some 50,000 people in southeastern Ohio, held back by a 400-foot-tall dam, that federal regulators have deemed a “high hazard” to human life if it ever let loose.

Here in tiny Greene Township, where the pond consumes more than 10 percent of the total land, Little Blue Run seems a wasteland.

Coal ash, tinted blue, has overtaken the valley, rising each year by a million tons, blanketing the trees so they look like pixie sticks. Residents say dry ash wafts into their yards, its sulfuric smell burning their throats. At night, they hear a swooshing sound as coal ash cascades down a pipe stretching seven miles from the Bruce Mansfield Power Station, in Shippingport, Pa.

“It will keep rising,” says Marci Carpenter, who lives in a neighborhood dotted with vacant properties and abandoned homes, “and soon it’ll be above my house.”

Unless, that is, coal ash is regulated by the federal government.

More.

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From :

Coal ash. It’s a byproduct of electric power plants. Residents near what is believed to be the largest dump site east of the Mississippi have lived with the environmental consequences for years. But now there’s new hope that proposed federal regulation may change the industry’s practices.

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From The Morning Call:

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For years, New Jersey has struggled to get Pennsylvania to consider its neighbor’s air in enforcing emission standards, a situation that has allowed some coal-powered plants to operate without scrubbers for decades.

And for just as long, New Jersey officials and activists say, Pennsylvania has thumbed its nose at its neighbor, who has labored mightily to meet federal standards for sulfur dioxide and other pollutants.

Federal records show Pennsylvania has more than 80 fossil-fuel power plants, several of which produce prodigious amounts of sulfur dioxide, a pollutant shown to aggravate asthma.

Yet westerly winds blow a sizable portion of the contaminant over the Delaware River into New Jersey, leaving Pennsylvania’s skies and the consciences of its lawmakers clear.

As a result, Pennsylvania regulators have been slow to push upgrades of outmoded power plants, officials and activists say — including the Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, now the subject of a federal review.

“States and state legislators are often very parochial in their outlook: ‘It’s not affecting our state, so it’s not a big deal,'” said Frank Kuserk, a professor of biological sciences at Moravian College. “That’s why you need regional and national cooperation.”

Sulfur dioxide is a jack-of-all-trades pollutant. Inhaled, it aggravates asthma and can cause respiratory diseases like emphysema and bronchitis. Combined with other contaminants and water vapor, it falls from the sky as acid rain. Over long distances, it often clumps together with other pollutants, forming tiny particles that can cause breathing problems.

It’s also easily controlled using scrubber systems, though not necessarily cheaply. Federal officials recommend two basic techniques, featuring components like mist eliminators and vacuum filters.

But the 53-year-old Portland plant doesn’t have any such controls. Neither do a number of other Pennsylvania plants, lawsuits contend. When pressed, Portland plant owner GenOn Energy always says the same thing: The state never told us to upgrade.

GenOn officials wrote in 2010 annual financial filings that installing scrubbers at older coal plants is economically unfeasible. Cost estimates to bring Portland into compliance have run as high as $300 million.

But when Maryland enforced stricter sulfur dioxide rules in 2009, GenOn agreed to install pollution control at three plants in that state, reducing emissions by more than 80 percent, according to the filings. Pennsylvania hasn’t enforced similar rules.

That riles New Jersey, which has failed to meet federal air quality standards for sulfur dioxide in one county and for certain particulates in more than 10. Warren County has failed to meet both ozone and sulfur dioxide standards for eight years straight.

Fed up — and with federal rules growing ever stricter — the Garden State filed a complaint with the EPA last year under a “good neighbor” clause of the federal Clean Air Act, written to protect eastern states from pollution blown cross-country from the Midwest.

In this case, officials say the coal-fired plant just south of Portland along the Delaware River produces more sulfur dioxide than all of New Jersey’s coal plants combined, befouling the air in four counties.

Earlier this year, the EPA agreed to consider a petition to enforce stricter sulfur dioxide standards against the plant. Public comment ended June 13, with a federal decision coming this fall.

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New Jersey says it has no choice but to take the matter to court.

“If we have to be a bit tough toward our neighbor, we will be,” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said. “The plants we are now litigating against, we wish they would have already been through state rules and regulations and have had pollution controls in place.”

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More.

From the New York Times:

Radioactivity levels are “at or below” safe levels in Pennsylvania rivers, state regulators said on Monday, based on water samples taken last November and December from seven rivers.

The results come at a time of growing scrutiny of the potential hazards of radioactivity and other contaminants in wastewater from natural-gas drilling. The wastewater is routinely sent to treatment plants in Pennsylvania, which then discharge their waste into rivers.

In a letter sent to the state on Monday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency noted the state’s test results, but instructed officials there to perform testing within 30 days for radioactivity at drinking-water intake plants.

It also said that all permits issued by the state to treatment plants handling this waste should be reviewed to ensure that operators were complying with the law.

The E.P.A. asked the state for data and documents so it could check whether current permits were strict enough in requiring monitoring and in limiting the type of pollution the treatment plants can release into rivers.

“E.P.A. is prepared to exercise its enforcement authorities as appropriate where our investigations reveal violations of federal law,” the letter said.

The E.P.A.’s moves follow reports in The New York Times about gas-industry wastewater with high levels of radioactivity being sent to sewage treatment plants that were not designed to remove radioactive materials. These plants then discharge the processed wastewater into rivers and streams.

The Times found that samples taken by the state in the Monongahela River — a source of drinking water for parts of Pittsburgh — came from a point upstream from the two sewage treatment plants on that river. The state has said those plants are still accepting significant quantities of drilling waste.

Because that sampling site is upstream, the discharges from those two plants are not captured by the state’s monitoring plans.

More.

From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Two southwestern Pennsylvania fly ashdisposal sites are among 28 such sites in 17 states that have contaminated groundwater by leaking toxic, cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, according to a new report by Earthjustice and two other environmental groups.

Unsafe hexavalent chromium levels were found in groundwater near a landfill used by Allegheny Energy’s 1,710-megawatt Hatfield’s Ferry power plant in Greene County; and around an unlined pond and landfill near the GenOn’s Seward power plant in New Florence, Indiana County, the report found.

Another Pennsylvania fly ash disposal site, an unlined pond used by PPL’s Martins Creek power plant in Northhampton County, in the eastern end of the state, was also on the report’s list.

Hexavalent chromium was made famous by the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich.”

The report released Tuesday calls for tighter drinking water limits for chromium and federal regulations designating coal fly ash as a hazardous waste. The report was released on the eve of scheduled Senate testimony by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson about the public health concerns of contaminated drinking water and hexavalent chromium exposure.

“It is now abundantly clear that EPA must control coal ash disposal to prevent the poisoning of our drinking water with hexavalent chromium,” said Linda Evans, Earthjustice senior administrative counsel.

Studies by the EPA, the state of California and the agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry have found that exposure in drinking water to small amounts of hexavalent chromium can increase human cancer risk.

More.

Center for Public Integrity: One town’s recurring coal ash nightmare.

Stand before the pond known here in southwestern Pennsylvania as Little Blue Run, and you’ll see nothing that resembles its bucolic-sounding name. The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant.

The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant. The pond spans nearly 1,000 acres of rolling, rural landscape in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Millions of tons of coal ash have landed in the 35-year-old dump, looming over some 50,000 people in southeastern Ohio, held back by a 400-foot-tall dam, that federal regulators have deemed a “high hazard” to human life if it ever let loose.

Here in tiny Greene Township, where the pond consumes more than 10 percent of the total land, Little Blue Run seems a wasteland.

Coal ash, tinted blue, has overtaken the valley, rising each year by a million tons, blanketing the trees so they look like pixie sticks. Residents say dry ash wafts into their yards, its sulfuric smell burning their throats. At night, they hear a swooshing sound as coal ash cascades down a pipe stretching seven miles from the Bruce Mansfield Power Station, in Shippingport, Pa.

“It will keep rising,” says Marci Carpenter, who lives in a neighborhood dotted with vacant properties and abandoned homes, “and soon it’ll be above my house.”

Unless, that is, coal ash is regulated by the federal government.

More . . . 

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