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Letter from Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich on the Dickerson coal-fired power plant (Oct. 2)

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 2, 2017

Letter from Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich on the Dickerson coal-fired power plant

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 2, 2017—Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich has sent an open letter to Benjamin Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, regarding testimony he gave at a public hearing about the renewal of a State Discharge Permit Application for Mirant MD Ash Management. His testimony concerned the need to update the requirements for permits and implement new technologies at several regional coal power-fired plants.

The full text of the letter is below:

October 2, 2017

The Honorable Benjamin Grumbles
Department of the Environment
Montgomery Park Business Center
1800 Washington Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21230

Dear Secretary Grumbles:

I am writing to you as a follow-up to the testimony I presented in person on Wednesday, September 27, at the public hearing convened by the Maryland Department of the Environment.  I urge you to update the requirements for the expired Clean Water Act National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits for the Dickerson, Chalk Point and Morgantown coal-fired power plants. 

The Dickerson coal-plant, which is in the County I represent as an at-large Councilmember, is located on the shores of the Potomac River.   As you know, it operates under an expired permit that allows toxic pollutants into the Potomac down to the Chesapeake Bay.  It uses technology that dates from the early 1980’s, and advances in our understanding of health impacts from toxins has radically changed since then. So what seemed acceptable then, no longer offers adequate protection for the public’s health. As you also know in 2015, the EPA updated standards for controlling the toxic pollutants, including arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, lead, and selenium - for the first time in more than 30 years.  The new standards can be met with existing and widely used technology.

Specifically, for the Dickerson plant one of the central issues is the bottom ash transport water, which is the water coming off the leftover ash after the coal has been burned.  The newer, better technology of a dry ash handling system should be used.  Essentially, a dry ash handling system evaporates the water out and the dry ash can be disposed of in a certified landfill that is properly lined and controlled rather than seeping into our waters.  Dry ash systems are widely used and are shown to be effective. They’ve been used elsewhere without jeopardizing the viability of the power plant. While this system may cost more money to install, it will reduce the environmental and health costs associated with the impacts of these pollutants on our water, on aquatic life and on human health.  The dry ash handling system could eliminate most of the pollutants in the water.  Frankly, it would be unconscionable to continue to use an outmoded technology that cannot address known risks, when a viable and proven alternative is available - and the benefits to public health are tangible.

The updated technology should be implemented now.  Please require that the continued operation of these coal fired plants be contingent on the adoption of the technology as required by the 2015 regulations. I appreciate your serious consideration of this proposal and hope that you will be a leader in protecting our state’s precious waterways and the public’s health.


Marc Elrich (At-large)

# # # Release ID: 17-295
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 2407777926