Monday, July 6, 2009

No hearing set on mine water dumping in Schuylkill River

Do you want more manganese and iron in your water?

Do you want to pay additional taxes in order to keep replacing the water distribution system due to corrosion from heavy metals in Phoenixville?

Do you believe your family deserves safe drinking water?

The nagging health and safety issues surrounding the Limerick Nuclear Power plant will be with us well past the next generation if Exelon continues to demand more of our resources due to it's unsatiable appetite for water.

Unless the public holds Exelon, DBRC, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, accountable for safe drinking water from the Schuylkill River, with contaminant levels well below what is considered safe, our health may be at risk.

Get involved!


Monday, July 6, 2009

By Evan Brandt,

POTTSTOWN — Eight months after promising a Pottstown-area public hearing on a project in which contaminated water from an upriver coal mine is dumped into the Schuylkill to provide water for the Limerick nuclear power plant, there is still no date set for the hearing.

However, the Delaware River Basin Commission, which has oversight authority of the project, will be discussing the matter next month as part of its bi-annual review of the project, which is being pursued by Exelon Nuclear to benefit the Limerick Generating Station.

"We currently do not have a date yet for the public hearing," said DRBC spokeswoman Katherine O'Hara. She said the staff is continuing to work on analyzing the data collected over the last six years, and the last six months, in order to make a recommendation to the full commission.

"It's still going to happen," she said of the hearing.

She said the agency is cognizant of the need to make the final recommendation available to the public in plenty of time to make any public hearing on the issue worthwhile.

"We want to have it out to the public to give them plenty of time" to understand it and thus bring informed questions and comments to the hearing, she said.

The meeting set for July 29 in the agency's Trenton, N.J. headquarters is one of two held each year to discuss the latest data collected from the river and to share information among the DRBC, Exelon and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which may also issue a recommendation in support or opposition to the project.

At the crux of the matter is water pumped from a Schuylkill County coal mine which, unlike water from many other Pennsylvania coal mines, is not acidic.

For the past six years, the water has been pumped from the Wadesville mine to augment the river's flows as a way to allow the power plant to draw more water from the Schuylkill, particularly during the summer months when flow is low.

Currently, when the water level in the Schuylkill drops too low, the plant must draw water from a series of pipelines and water flows in the Perkiomen Creek and Delaware River.

As part of its application, Exelon has agreed to make annual contributions to a watershed improvement fund that is based on the amount of water it has avoided pumping in from the Delaware.

Pottstown has become a focus for the project because the Pottstown Water Treatment plant in Stowe, 70 miles downstream from Wadesville, is the first place downstream of the river from the mine that water is drawn in for public consumption.

Exelon asked the Pottstown Borough Authority, which owns the plant, to endorse the project, while the Alliance for a Clean Environment, which points to the high levels of iron and manganese in the water, has argued for the opposite.

The authority has, to date, issued no endorsement.

The water pumped from the mine shows 80 times the safe drinking water level for manganese and 20 times the standard for iron.

However, 2005 tests at the Pottstown intake showed those levels to have been diluted down to 17 times the safe standard for manganese and 1.5 times for iron. Those contaminants are removed by processing at the water treatment plant, but may add to the cost of plant maintenance.

The mine water has been added under the authority of the DRBC as a "demonstration project," and Exelon has filed an application to make the permission permanent.

In December, the agency extended for one year permission to continue to conduct the project as a demonstration while it continues its review of Exelon's request to make the permission permanent.

O'Hara said the granting of extensions such as the one used in this case is unusual for the DRBC, but not unheard of.

Data on the project is available at — which is the DRBC Web site dedicated to sharing the information with the public.

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