Plant won’t discharge wastewater into creek
Environmentalists claim victory even though Invenergy’s decision makes pending litigation moot.
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.