Groups Want Hatfield Ferry Plant to Control Discharges

Clean water advocates announced on March 16 they 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 river is a drinking water source for more than 350,000 people living south of Pittsburgh, Pa. Many coal-fired power plants around the country use systems that prevent discharge of heavy metals into rivers and streams. The appeal filed before the state Environmental Hearings Board seeks to get effective pollution controls installed at Hatfield's Ferry.

Allegheny Energy Supply Co. (AES) is asking permission to discharge its waste directly into the Monongahela, according to the press release.

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 installing air pollution scrubbers that limit the amount of sulfur dioxide, mercury, and other pollutants pumped into the air.

"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.

The groups also will 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. 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.