Plant won’t dis­charge waste­water into creek

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists claim vic­tory even though In­ven­ergy’s de­ci­sion makes pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion moot.

The Times-Tribune - - Front Page - BY KYLE WIND STAFF WRITER

JESSUP — In­ven­ergy no longer plans to dis­charge hun­dreds of thou­sands of gal­lons of in­dus­trial waste­water into Grassy Is­land Creek daily when its 1,500-megawatt power plant be­comes op­er­a­tional — a de­vel­op­ment en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists call a ma­jor vic­tory.

Amid a Sierra Club le­gal chal­lenge and wa­ter test­ing by Cit­i­zens for a Healthy Jessup to es­tab­lish base­line pol­lu­tion lev­els, the Chicago-based com­pany in­formed state reg­u­la­tors the fa­cil­ity won’t

re­lease treated waste­water from its cool­ing sys­tem into the creek.

“That was a tremen­dous win for this com­mu­nity,” Cit­i­zens for a Healthy Jessup mem­ber Ja­son Petrochko said. “It makes you won­der if, when chal­lenged like this and they de­cide not to put the wa­ter in the creek, what else they might de­cide to do dif­fer­ently had they been chal­lenged by any­one.”

Cit­ing pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion, In­ven­ergy spokes­woman Mary Ryan de­clined to dis­cuss the de­ci­sion be­yond say­ing it has noth­ing to do with the Sierra Club’s or the Cit­i­zens’ ef­forts. Com­pany of­fi­cials, how­ever, briefly de­scribed their new plan in a let­ter to the state De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion.

‘That was a tremen­dous win for this com­mu­nity.’ Ja­son Petrochko Cit­i­zens for a Healthy Jessup mem­ber

“Lack­awanna En­ergy Cen­ter has elim­i­nated its plans to dis­charge in­dus­trial waste­water to Grassy Is­land Creek,” wrote Bryan Schueler, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of de­vel­op­ment. “The project has ad­justed its wa­ter bal­ance to im­ple­ment re­cy­cling of steam-cy­cle blow­down and a wa­ter re­cov­ery-and-re­use sys­tem, thereby re­duc­ing waste­water gen­er­a­tion.”

In­ven­ergy orig­i­nally planned to use a wet cool­ing sys­tem at the nat­u­ral-gas-fired power plant but in May 2015 an­nounced the op­er­a­tion in­stead would de­velop a dry cool­ing sys­tem that cuts con­sump­tion about 90 per­cent.

The most re­cent ver­sion of the plan, which DEP ap­proved be­fore In­ven­ergy re­cently amended it, would have re­quired send­ing daily to­tals of up to 290,000 gal­lons of treated waste­water into Grassy Is­land Creek, DEP spokes­woman Colleen Con­nolly said.

In­ven­ergy now seeks per­mis­sion to dis­charge the byprod­uct into the mu­nic­i­pal sewer sys­tem but could also ap­ply for a per­mit to truck it away.

“The pro­posed method was se­lected be­cause it min­i­mizes en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts as well as ad­min­is­tra­tive and fi­nan­cial bur­dens, while also as­sur­ing ap­pli­ca­ble wa­ter qual­ity stan­dards are at­tained,” In­ven­ergy of­fi­cials said in their ap­pli­ca­tion to amend the bor­ough’s sewer fa­cil­i­ties pro­gram.

Michael Mat­e­chak, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Lack­awanna River Basin Sewer Au­thor­ity, said In­ven­ergy is look­ing to re­lease 58,000 gal­lons of in­dus­trial waste­water and sanitary sewage into the sys­tem daily with an av­er­age of 52,000 gal­lons a day.

The plant can han­dle 10 mil­lion gal­lons a day and now takes in about 5 mil­lion gal­lons, leav­ing Mat­e­chak with no ca­pac­ity con­cerns.

“They’ve sent us some data on the con­stituents that would be in the waste­water, and there’s noth­ing re­ally to be con­cerned about there ei­ther,” he said. “It’s a boiler-con­den­sate type of wa­ter with salts, min­er­als and things nor­mally found in waste­water any­way in low con­cen­tra­tions. There’s noth­ing there that raised any red flags with us.”

Prior to In­ven­ergy’s change of dis­posal plans, the Sierra Club ap­pealed DEP’s per­mit ap­proval to the state En­vi­ron­men­tal Hear­ing Board, a lim­ited-ju­ris­dic­tion court that hears cases con­cern­ing DEP de­ci­sions.

Among the Sierra Club’s con­tentions is that the agency granted the per­mit for the power plant with­out a re­quired eval­u­a­tion of non-dis­charge al­ter­na­tives.

With In­ven­ergy with­draw­ing its plans to dis­charge into the creek, at­tor­neys from the com­pany, Sierra Club and DEP agreed to re­quest the case be dis­missed be­cause the ap­peal is moot.

Joanne Kil­gour, di­rec­tor of the Sierra Club PA Chap­ter, saw the out­come as a suc­cess.

“It pro­tects Grassy Is­land Creek from what would have been a sig­nif­i­cant in­dus­trial waste­water dis­charge,” she said.

The fa­cil­ity still will send stormwa­ter into Grassy Is­land Creek, which is a 6-mile-long trib­u­tary of the Lack­awanna River and a pro­tected cold-wa­ter fish­ery that the Lack­awanna River Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion plans to con­serve by even­tu­ally cre­at­ing a green­way to pro­tect it.

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