Appeal to Nature

Commissioners address DEP ash disposal concerns

Times Observer file photo This photo of the now-largely shuttered Warren Generating Station is at the center of a controversy about treated coal ash disposal in the Allegheny River at that location.

A permit reauthorization for treated coal ash disposal at the Warren Generating Station site dominated discussion at Wednesday’s Warren County Commissioners meeting.

And the commissioners are pushing for a public hearing on the matter.

The permit application was filed through the Department of Environmental Protection’s Northwest Regional Office under the Clean Water Program by GeonOn REMA LLC, based in Shawville, Pa.

It was filed with DEP on September 29, 2016, and DEP staff indicate on the form an intent to approve the renewal.

“We have requested a formal meeting with DEP,” Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said, noting he has received over 100 emails on the subject.

He said it is the commissioner’s “hope to have a public hearing within the next week that we would set up and they would come to attend,” calling such a meeting the “best we could hope for in the time frame allotted.”

The comment period on the project is only open through October 29.

Eggleston noted there is “nothing else we can do to force” a public hearing but said it is his “expectation that they will consent…. All we can do is continue to contact them (and) request that they come and meet with us. So we’re definitely engaged with DEP on the issue. We’ve sent emails, phone calls” to multiple staff. There have been “multiple conversations both phone and email to try and get a public hearing,” he said.

He said later in discussion that in conversations with DEP that their “initial indication” is that this “is a routine permit application that they have to do every five years” and there is “not any substantial difference between what’s being done and what’s been done.”

DEP gave a similar statement to the Times Observer last week.

“While the discharge of treated ash disposal landfill leachate to the Allegheny River has existed and been permitted for multiple permit cycles,” Thomas Decker, community relations coordinator with DEP, explained, “DEP evaluated this treated ash landfill leachate discharge based on information contained in the 2019 renewal permit application, the applicable technology-based requirements for leachate discharges of coal combustion residuals (ash) and new information obtained since the previous permit renewal regarding protection of threatened and endangered species in the Allegheny River.”

The result of that review, Decker said, includes changes proposed to the renewal of the permit to “include the addition of monitoring and effluent limitations for oil and grease and monitoring for chloride and nickel.”

Eggleston said it is his goal “to get them (DEP) to communicate that to you, to everyone that’s involved (and to) assuage the concern or at least be held accountable for whatever decision they make.”

“While we have some influence by contacting DEP, who would have more influence would be our legislators,” Commissioner Cindy Morrison said to those who attended the meeting to speak to the issue.

Eggleston reiterated that the commissioners “have no authority over the permit…. We never had a notification (from DEP) that I’m aware of. (We are) doing everything we can do get you the public hearing you want. We want to accommodate those concerns. I feel very confident we will get some kind of response from them.”


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