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DEP issues promise of forthcoming public info meeting

On Wednesday, Warren County Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said he was confident the Department of Environmental Protection would respond to questions regarding a pending permit renewal.

On Thursday, DEP responded with a statement, the announcement of a forthcoming new comment period, and the promise of a public meeting.

Under decades of previous permits, treated water that “percolated through or drained from solid waste” as well as stormwater have been discharged into the Allegheny River from the Warren Generating Station in Starbrick.

The leachate “in this case, would be the liquid that drains from the closed ash disposal landfill,” according to the Thursday release from DEP Press Secretary Elizabeth Rementer. “It’s important to note that any discharges into the river must be treated to remove contaminants and be in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act and state Clean Streams Law.”

“The discharge from the leachate treatment system at the facility is in compliance with its current National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and has been permitted for multiple permit cycles,” Rementer said.

GenOn REMA LLC filed for a renewal of the NPDES permit at its Warren Generating location.

The discharges under the old permit were “well below legal limits” for the materials found at or suspected from the site. The treatment process for those will not change under the renewal, “so those levels should remain consistent,” Rementer said. Other than that, the renewal under consideration will be more stringent than those issued over the past 45 years.

“DEP evaluated the treated ash landfill leachate discharges 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,” Rementer said. “The permit renewal also contains more stringent changes, including the addition of monitoring and effluent limitations for oil and grease and monitoring for chloride and nickel.”

There will be more opportunities for public input.

“DEP understands that citizens are concerned about the impact of wastewater discharges on our natural resources,” Rementer said. “DEP values and encourages public comments and concerns in its permit renewal process, and no action will be taken until public input is considered.”

The initial public comment period will end on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

“There will be opportunities in the near future for the public to provide input,” Rementer said. “DEP is currently preparing to re-draft the NPDES permit following requested changes to the permit application from the operator.”

“The re-draft, once completed, will be publicly posts on the PA Bulletin with a new 30-day public comment period,” she said. Comments placed during the current comment period will also be considered.

“DEP will hold a public meeting soon to hear concerns from the public and explain the permit renewal and process,” Rementer said. “The date and location of that public meeting is still being planned, but the public will be invited and encouraged to participate.”

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