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Brunner Island coal-fired plant.jpg

The Brunner Island coal-fired plant located on the west bank of Susquehanna River. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

Four environmental groups have reached an agreement with the owner of a York County coal-fired power plant to reduce pollution flowing into the Susquehanna River.

Talen Energy will pay a $1 million fine — the largest ever assessed for coal ash pollution in Pennsylvania, the state Department of Environmental Protection said.

A year ago, the Environmental Integrity Project, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, PennEnvironment and Waterkeeper Alliance had threatened to sue over Clean Water Act violations, saying the plant was discharging toxic pollutants including arsenic, boron, sulfate, and lithium from its unlined coal ash waste ponds.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Ted Evgeniadis said he discovered an unpermitted pipe in 2018 that was sending coal ash pollution into a tributary of the Susquehanna River.

The consent decree filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg requires Brunner Island’s owner, Talen Energy, to close one of its coal ash ponds, monitor and address leakage from other waste sites, and pay the $1 million fine. The company will also contribute $100,000 to a fund supporting projects to “reduce or mitigate the effects of water pollution in the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed.”

“The projects funded by this settlement will help ensure we are leaving the Lower Susquehanna River in better shape for future generations,” Evgeniadis said in a statement. “And those of us who use and enjoy the Lower Susquehanna River can rest easier tonight knowing that concrete measures and timelines are in place to reduce toxic pollution in the river.”

Talen’s senior vice president for regulatory and external affairs, Debra Raggio, said the company is pleased to have reached an agreement and is committed to complying with environmental regulations.

“In this settlement, Talen is addressing inherited legacy issues at these ash basins as we continue efforts to reduce Brunner Island’s environmental footprint by utilizing natural gas and phasing out coal,” Raggio said in a statement.  “We will continue to work proactively with PADEP to maintain compliance with our permits.”

 

Read the agreement:

StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration among WITF, WHYY, WESA and the Allegheny Front to report on the commonwealth’s energy economy.