The owners of two Maryland power plants in the Washington suburbs will pay $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging illegal releases of nitrogen into rivers, a leading cause of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
State Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) and Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles on Monday announced the settlement with NRG Energy subsidiaries that own coal-fired generators at the Chalk Point station in Prince George’s County and the Dickerson station in Montgomery County.
The plant operators will pay an additional $1 million to support environmental restoration projects in their watersheds and invest a total of $10 million to upgrade the wastewater filtration systems at the two plants to reduce future pollution.
So $2 million total? Seems like a rather trivial fine considering the scale and value of the power plants. It probably cost more than that to prosecute the cases.
Maryland filed a lawsuit in 2013 alleging the power plants had discharged wastewater that contained illegal amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Potomac and Patuxent rivers.
|Dickerson Generating Station|
Interestingly, the problems arose in systems designed to remove nitrogen oxides from the stack gases of the power plants that were mandated by the government. But then you have the problem of disposing of the nitrogen you've trapped chemically.
In 2009 and 2010, the plants set up wastewater treatment systems that included pollutant-eating bacteria, which were supposed to minimize the presence of chemicals harmful to the bay.
But the lawsuit filed by the state alleges that those bacteria died shortly after installation of the systems. The lawsuit said that in some years, the Chalk Point facility released 20 times as much nitrogen into the Patuxent River as its permit allows.
The trouble with biological treatment systems is that they tend to be more fragile than purely chemical systems. When the bugs die or go on strike, the systems refuse to work
NRG Energy is not admitting violations under the settlement.
“It's in the best interests of everyone for us to settle and move on,” said Dave Gaier, an NRG spokesman.
I'm pretty sure that NRG didn't even own Dickerson and Chalk Point over the time in question. Yep:
Mirant was merged into GenOn Energy in 2010,and GenOn merged into NRG in 2012.
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