After 40 years without effective pollution controls, a scrubbing system was recently installed at the Hatfield’s Ferry power plant in Masontown, Penn., limiting the amount of sulfur dioxide and other pollutants the plant pumps into the air. But the plant’s failure to install a scrubbing system for its discharged wastewater means that the dangerous pollutants that formerly fouled the air are now being dumped into the Monongahela River, a drinking water source for more than 350,000 people living south of Pittsburgh.
Hatfield's Ferry is located along the Monongahela River that flows north from West Virginia into southwestern Pennsylvania. The Monongahela is heavily used for recreation (boating and sportfishing) and is the main drinking water source for over 90,000 people in the region south of Pittsburgh. It is also the location of one of Pennsylvania's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.
After decades of operating without air pollution controls, the Hatfield's Ferry plant is finally installing "scrubbers" that will dramtically reduce its emissions of air pollutants. The bad news is that the plant is going to dump the scrubber waste water into the Mongahela River. This waste water is laden with toxic heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, mercury, selenium, copper, hexavalent chromium, lead, and thallium that are toxic to people as well as fish and wildlife. Cleaning up air pollution should not come at the cost of polluted water.
On behalf of conservationists and local citizens, Earthjustice is participating in administrative appeals of the Clean Water Act permit that was issued to Hatfield's Ferry by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. We are pushing for installation of state-of-the-art controls that would eliminate all pollution discharges from the new scrubbers. If we prevail, we will help restore water quality not only in the Mongahela River but also across the country, as an increasing number of old plants are forced to install scrubbers of their own.