September 22, 2019

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PA Coal Plant Polluting River, Environmentalists Say


Talen Energy’s Brunner Island power plant could be in huge legal trouble if environmentalists decide to sue the coal-fired plant in York Haven, Pennsylvania.

According to the Baltimore Sun, The Environmental Integrity Project and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper warned Talen Energy that they and other groups plan to file a lawsuit that alleges “…toxic pollutants are leaching out of ash and waste pits at the Brunner Island Generating Station in York County and washing into the Susquehanna,” a river that’s vital to the community for drinking water, fishing and boating, and agriculture. The Brunner Island power plant is located about 20 miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Riverkeeper, Ted Evgeniadis, noted elevated levels of arsenic, boron, sulfate and lithium in a creek and groundwater springs that flow into the Susquehanna River near Brunner Island and about 50 miles upstream of the Chesapeake Bay.

In Pennsylvania, the warning by the environmental groups puts into motion a process that could eventually end up with federal regulators being involved, and Talen Energy has just sixty days to respond with what it will do to stop the toxic waste problem it’s allegedly causing to the surrounding area’s two beloved bodies of water, the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay. During the 60-day period, Talen Energy will have the opportunity to address the health and environmental concerns brought by the groups that could potentially file the lawsuit.

Accusations Against Brunner Island

Environmental Integrity Project attorneys said the Brunner Island has failed to contain coal ash and other waste products, which are in ponds and landfills that are leaking or not properly lined or lined at all. Environmentalists claim that the high levels of toxins found in the local waterway, Black Gut Creek, “could only be explained by leakage,” which is a violation of the Clean Water Act and the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law.

Another issue is that Evgeniadis said he found a pipe releasing waste from the ash ponds that may not be regulated by a valid water quality permit; with the pollutants being released not aligning with any approved water discharge pipes, Brunner Island permits may be incomplete or inaccurate as they currently stand.

Brunner Island Changes

This is not the first time the Brunner Island Power Plant has been ordered to make changes. After years of environmental concerns from various groups, Talen Energy’s Brunner Island location is set to stop burning coal altogether by the end of 2028 under a recent settlement with the Sierra Club, an environmental group founded in California in 1892. Three of Brunner’s coal-fired power units built in the 1960’s were retrofitted in 2017 to make them capable of burning natural gas. Waterkeeper Alliance and PennEnvironment have now continued the fight and these groups are working hard to ensure the health and safety of the area’s vital natural resources.

About Lynn Fugaro

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