U.S. Water News Online
PITTSBURGH -- Reliant Energy Inc. violated its Clean Water
Act discharge permit by pumping water with illegal levels of
potentially toxic metals into a river near one of its power plants,
according to two environmental groups.
PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club notified the Houston-based
co-owner and manager of the Conemaugh Generating Station in New
Florence that they intend to sue over the discharges into the
The violations could hamper efforts to clean up the river, which
has suffered from acid mine drainage and industrial discharges, said
David Masur, director of PennEnvironment. Pollutants in the
discharges can be made worse by acidic water, he said.
The violations occurred "practically every day" the coal-fired
plant has been operating in nearly the past two years, the groups
Reliant spokeswoman Pat Hammond said the company is complying with
an agreement it has with the state Department of Environmental
Protection covering wastewater discharges.
The agreement acknowledges that technology does not yet exist to
enable Reliant to meet the discharge levels, and instead established
those levels as goals, Hammond said. The deal also calls for Reliant
to monitor new technology and have it in place by 2011.
"We continue to look for better ways to lower discharges of these
chemicals at Conemaugh and we communicate regularly with the DEP
about our progress on this front,"she said.
Reliant has a 16 percent share of the plant, which it operates for
a consortium of eight owners. It generates 1,700 megawatts annually.
In a study last March based on a Freedom of Information Act
request, PennEnvironment found water-treatment plants, factories and
other facilities continued to discharge illegal amounts of pollutants
into state waterways. PennEnvironment then went through the data in
"It's one of the most egregious violators we found in our
Conemaugh regularly violated its discharge limits for aluminum,
boron, iron, manganese, and selenium, and had violated its monitoring
requirements for mercury, according to the groups.
The plant, which sends 2 million gallons of water daily into the
river, exceeded its daily maximum and monthly average discharge
limits for various metals nearly 200 times between February 2005 and
October 2006, the groups said. They based that number on monitoring
reports that Reliant submitted to the state Department of
Reliant has the financial and technological ability to clean up
the problem, Masur said. By not doing so, it sends a message to other
polluters that there are few consequences, he said.
The Clean Water Act contains a provision that lets citizens bring
enforcement lawsuits after notifying the alleged violator and state
and federal environmental agencies.
The National Environmental Law Center is representing
PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club.
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