HARRISBURG – The Department of Environmental Protection has fined the owners of the Homer City electricity generating station, EME Homer City Generation LP, $200,000 for violating the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law.
The Center Township, Indiana County, facility exceeded its permitted effluent standards for selenium, total suspended solids, and biochemical oxygen demand in its wastewater discharges, and to have allowed unpermitted discharges of stormwater associated with its flue gas desulfurization “scrubbers.”
The scrubbers are designed to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas that combines with water to form sulfuric acid, the main component of acid rain.
“Wastewater treatment facilities for the flue gas desulfurization units at the Homer City facility began operating October 2001, but problems developed shortly after that,” DEP Southwest Regional Director Kenneth Bowman said. “The facility has exceeded the effluent standards of its permit numerous times between December 2001 and the present, and this pattern of violations has to be addressed.
“EME Homer City has also agreed to research treatment technologies that will allow the facility to comply consistently with its effluent limitations, and could potentially benefit the entire industry,” added Bowman.
Selenium is a naturally occurring trace element that is present in the bituminous coal used at the power plant. When coal is combusted to generate power, selenium and other metals are present in the flue gas. Scrubbers remove contaminants by forcing the flue gas through an absorber vessel before spraying it with a water slurry containing limestone. The resulting wastewater is treated with biological and chemical processes before being discharged into the receiving stream.
The discharged wastewater is required to meet the water quality standards set in the Clean Streams Law, DEP rules and regulations, and the discharge permit issued by the DEP to the facility.
In addition to the civil penalties for violating the Clean Stream Law and the discharge permit, EME Homer City Generation has agreed to install
modifications to the wastewater system to improve its performance, and to complete additional programs to identify effective treatment technology for selenium removal until the effluent limits are achieved.