Court Slams Top Polluting Power Plant - Waterkeeper

Court Slams Top Polluting Power Plant

By: Waterkeeper Alliance

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Ted Evgeniadis at the Brunner Island Power Plant, which now must pay $1 million for its coal-ash pollution, the largest such penalty in Pennsylvania history. Photo by Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper.

After months of negotiation, Waterkeeper Alliance, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, and PennEnvironment, represented by the Environmental Integrity Project, signed a consent decree that will require a historic coal-ash cleanup at the Brunner Island Steam Electric Plant, one of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the nation. The agreement, joined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, also requires Talen Energy Corporation, the owner of the plant, to pay a $1 million penalty to the state and set aside $100,000 for environmental-restoration projects.

The $1 million assessment is the largest coal-ash-pollution penalty in Pennsylvania history.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper’s legal action will require a historic coal-ash cleanup at a facility that is considered one of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the nation.

Brunner Island is a coal- and natural-gas-fired electric generation facility bordering the Susquehanna River and Black Gut Creek in York County, PA. Waterkeeper Alliance and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper documented dangerous coal-ash pollutants seeping out of disposal sites at the plant, and further research uncovered widespread groundwater contamination. The consent decree sets requirements for the excavation and safe disposal of an estimated 3.2 million tons of coal ash from the site and imposes strict monitoring to prevent further ground- and surface-water contamination.

Pollution from the Brunner Island plant documented by Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper during a sampling trip in December 2017. Photo by Waterkeeper Alliance.

“Our grassroots organization detected high levels of toxic heavy metals leaching from Brunner Island’s unlined coal-ash dump, and rallied local support for the cleanup of the leaking waste site,” said Ted Evgeniadis, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “Those of us who use and enjoy the Lower Susquehanna River can rest easier knowing that concrete measures and timelines are in place to reduce toxic pollution in the river.”

Brunner Island also has been blamed for several significant fish kills in recent years, due to high heat discharges to the river. The consent decree includes provisions to reduce thermal discharges from the plant and requires Talen Energy to produce reports on impacts to fish. The projects funded by this settlement will also help restore two local streams, ensuring that the Lower Susquehanna River will be in better shape to serve future generations.