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Industrial Pollution

Brunner Island Coal Electricity Generation Station (PPL)

Brunner Island

WASHINGTON, D.C. ///February 24, 2010/// The case for the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to stop sitting on a delayed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) coal-ash site contamination rule is even stronger than it first appeared to be, according to a major new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice.

The analysis by EIP and Earthjustice identifies 31 additional coal-ash contamination sites in 14 states, which, when added to the 70 in the EPA’s justification for the pending rule, brings the total of coal-fired power plant waste storage sites with poisoned water to 101. For a copy of the full EIP/Earthjustice report, go to http://www.environmentalintegrity.org.

Data shows arsenic and other toxic metal levels in contaminated water at coal-ash disposal sites up to 1,450 times federally permissible levels. U.S. coal-fired power plants generate nearly 140 million tons of fly ash, scrubber sludge, and other combustion wastes every year. The EPA has indicated that coal ash dumps significantly increase risks to both people and wildlife. For example, EPA’s 2007 risk assessment estimated that up to one in 50 residents living near certain wet ash ponds could get cancer due to arsenic contamination of drinking water.


PennFuture submitted 24 pages of comments for us on Brunner Island’s permit renewal but PA DEP still gave PPL a permit. Ironically, Brunner Island appealed their permit, even after we choose not to take legal action. Its owners question DEP’s suspended solids allocation for their southern ash pit. Ash materials enter the Susquehanna from this point; DEP has asked them to reduce the pollutant from 30 mg/l to 10 mg/l average. They are also questioning DEP’s authority to request info that may lead to further intake improvements (316(b)).

Brunner Island releases 750 mgd of water ranging from 80-130 degrees into the Susquehanna. Working with PennFuture, it was determined that PPL has had over 1500 violations and two fish kills in the last four years. On January 13, LSR, working with PennFuture, Bob Clouser, and the Susquehanna Smallmouth Bass Alliance, sent a Notice of Intent to file suit for 1530 violations of the 2 degree temperature change condition in PPL Brunner Island’s NPDES permit. In March we were notified by PPL that they intended to make substantial improvements and asked us to hold off on the lawsuit. On March 27 it was announced that PPL would spend over $120 million on cooling units and pay $183,000 in penalties to Lancaster and York County Conservation Districts.

Enola Train Yard (Conrail)

We continue to gather evidence of PCB contamination from Mechanic’s area of the train yard. More details coming soon.

Glatfelter Paper, Permit Review

Glatfelter paper company, the largest contributor of pollution to the Codorus Creek recently submitted an application to renew their 5-year NPDES permit. We have reviewed and submitted technical comments on Glatfelter’s permit renewal application. Glatfelter’s effluent alters water temperatures in the Codorus Creek and strong permit standards protecting water quality are essential to the long-term health of the Codorus Creek watershed. There is also concern with toxins dumped in the area prior to the Clean Water Act and RCRA that require long-term monitoring to better understand the scope and threat posed by legacy contamination.

Mercury Smokestacks Regulations 

New Mercury Regulations for Coal Smokestacks PASSES! New DEP regulations would reduce mercury emissions by 90% by 2015 using currently available technology.

Anecdotally, it is important to remember that large corporate polluters actively collaborate on how to mitigate the costs of complying with the law. For instance, your Lower Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® attended a joint meeting of the PA Chamber of Commerce and DEP to discuss impacts of environmental regulation in 2009. We were there representing septic maintenance workers concerned with aspects of the PA Chesapeake Tributary Strategy, and to ask questions on their behalf. This part of the meeting went very well.

However, after DEP left, the representative of the Chamber discussed strategy to stop implementation of new DEP Mercury Regulations. He warned the members that sportsmen’s clubs were siding with environmental groups in advocating for the new regulations and advised members to attend the sportsmen’s clubs’ meetings and encourage them to stop working with environmental groups. This type of unscientific, money-driven policy creates artificial divisions between citizens and threatens the health and well being of our communities and our watersheds.

Old Exxon Tanks, Halifax

We have worked with Powell and Armstrong Creek Watershed Association to determine ecological threat of old tanks. Locals have told us that the wetlands nearby smell of diesel and look impaired. New information shows Exxon has an approved Closure Plan from PA DEP from 1993. Further action will require proof of leachate contamination.

Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant

Do nuclear plants increase water temperature and harm water quality by discharging superheated water used to their cool reactors? We think so, and the evidence is mounting.

On July 19, 2007, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Susquehanna Sojourn traveled from Holtwood to Conowingo Dam. Approximately .7 miles below Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Station I noticed steam rising from the water near the York County shoreline. I paddled over to investigate. The pictures shown below were taken between 12:49 and 12:54 pm.

This was not morning mist, and another paddler measured the temperature at in the middle of the channel at 102º F. The approximate location was N 39 44.726 W 76 14.875, or about 8/10 of a mile below the plant, and more to the center of Conowingo Pool. This event was particularly distressing because the prevalent notion is that the Pool is so large that Peach Bottom has less than a 2 degree effect. They have cooling units, but are not required to use them.

PenRoc Quarry

We are working with PA DEP to eliminate illegal discharges of limestone sediments to Codorus Creek. This problem was first discovered in early 2005. Our efforts resulted in immediate cease and desist order for quarry. This problem returned as of April 9, 2006. This was reported and once again a cease and desist order was issued and fines levied.

This quarry impacts Codorus Creek, most recently by pumping water over to a golf course, then the golf course pumps turbid clay-containing water to Codorus creek. LSR followed up with DEP and they are now looking at the turbidity before it leaves the property.

Thomasville Quarry (York Building Products)

DEP continues to ignore YBP’s proposal to clean the channel. We are working to eliminate illegal turbid clay discharges. DEP has fined the quarry $2600 due to reporting by LSR. The Quarry is now under a schedule to expand settling areas and clean concrete channel that is embedded with clay that washes into creek even when the company is not pumping.

Coal Ash

What is Coal Ash? Coal ash is an abundant and dangerous by-product of burning coal for energy. Despite its hazardous characteristics, coal ash and other coal combustion wastes are not subject to federal regulation, and state laws governing coal combustion waste disposal are usually weak or non-existent. What’s wrong with Coal Ash? Coal ash contains …

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