Advocates Challenge Water Pollution from Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Raviya Ismail, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237

Advocates Challenge Water Pollution from Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant

Move aimed at protecting drinking water for more than 350,000 people

PITTSBURGH, PA - Clean water advocates are challenging a permit that will allow
the Hatfield's Ferry coal-fired power plant to discharge mercury,
cadmium, selenium, lead and other toxic metals into the Monongahela
River. The Monongahela is a drinking water source for more than 350,000
people living south of Pittsburgh. Many coal-fired power plants around
the country use systems that prevent discharge of heavy metals into
rivers and streams. The appeal
filed today before the state Environmental Hearings Board seeks to get
effective pollution controls installed at Hatfield's Ferry.

The polluted water that Allegheny Energy Supply Co. (AES) wants to
dump in the river contains the same toxic metals found in other coal
burning wastes, such as the toxic coal waste that flooded over 300
hundreds of acres of land, and parts of the Emory and Clinch rivers,
after a dam collapsed in Tennessee in late December 2008. EPA has
recently stated that it will regulate these solid wastes nationally by
the end of 2009, possibly classifying them as toxic waste. AES is
asking permission to discharge a similar liquid waste directly into a
major source of drinking water.

Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project and Citizens Coal
Council have joined together to appeal a Clean Water Act pollution
discharge permit that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental
Protection issued to AES's Hatfield's Ferry power plant. After 40 years
of operation and several lawsuits, Hatfield's Ferry is finally
installing air pollution scrubbers that limit the amount of sulfur
dioxide, mercury, and other pollutants pumped into the air. However,
the company plans to take dangerous pollutants out of the air and dump
them in the river.

"We don't need to sacrifice our water when we clean up our air,"
said Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice attorney. "We can clean up both. Many
power plants have installed controls to limit both air and water
pollution. AES needs to do the same."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released a report
finding that more than a third of coal plants surveyed already achieve
"zero liquid discharge" from their scrubbers, indicating that clean air
does not have to come at the price of clean water. Hatfield's Ferry is
the latest in a line of Pennsylvania power plants that DEP has
permitted to buck the national trend towards zero liquid discharge.

"Those of us living downstream from Hatfield's Ferry have to be
concerned about any more pollution in our drinking water," said Lisa
Graves-Marcucci of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Our treatment
plants are old. We've seen unhealthy spikes in metals concentrations in
the past, and that means we need to do all we can to keep our water
clean in the first place."

The groups will also be defending the Pennsylvania DEP's decision to
set strong limits on the amount of sulfates and other pollutants that
Hatfield's Ferry may add to the Monongahela. AES filed its own appeal
before the Environmental Hearings Board in an effort to weaken the
limits, which are necessary to address ongoing water quality problems
in the river. This past October, DEP discovered that increased
pollution from industrial activities is impairing water quality in the
Monongahela. To solve the problem, the Pennsylvania DEP is requiring
all major polluters, including Hatfield's Ferry, to meet strict limits
for sulfates and other pollutants. Installing a zero liquid discharge
system would enable AES to meet these important limits -- and play a
positive role in cleaning up the river.

The discharge released by scrubbers includes cadmium, which is known
to cause cancer in people. The waste water also contains copper, lead,
mercury, selenium and thallium, all metals that can damage the nervous
system, heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys. These metals are extremely
harmful to people and animals even in very small quantities. Fish,
animals and plants in the Monongahela River ecosystem are also affected
because they depend on the river for food, water and habitat.

Read the Notice of Appeal (PDF)

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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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