EPA to Coal Plants: Get Your Ash in Order

For Jan. 9, 2015

1 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the first national regulations on the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals, also called coal ash, from coal-fired power plants.

tva coal ash spill 2008

View of the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant fly ash spill. Credit: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons

The final rule includes safeguards to protect communities from coal ash impoundment failures and prevent groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal.

The EPA assessed more than 500 facilities across the country after the failure in 2008 of a TVA coal ash pond in Kingston, Tennessee. Those assessments included the Karn-Weadock complex run by Consumers Energy in Bay County’s Hampton Township. The EPA rated the condition of disposal facilities at the local complex as “satisfactory.”

Improperly constructed or managed coal ash disposal units have been linked to nearly 160 cases of harm to surface water, groundwater, and air, the EPA says.

These first federal requirements include regular inspections of surface impoundments, and restrictions on the location of new impoundments and landfills so that they can’t be built in sensitive areas such as wetlands.

The rule also requires facilities to post information online, including annual groundwater monitoring results and corrective action reports.

2 – Information on Great Lakes currents is currently available.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor is posting the visualizations online.

The flow patterns depicted in the visualizations are based on simulations from the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System operated by the lab.

The lab is arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Online, you can see snapshots of water motion at the present time and from three hours ago, including conditions on Saginaw Bay.

The maps use the same technology developed for mapping winds, and the potential for wind energy generation.

 

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

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Consumers Energy Cuts Pollution, Huron Pines Reconnects Rivers, and Saginaw Bay Charters Hook More Walleye

For Sept. 19, 2014

 

1 – Consumers Energy has reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Credit: Jerry 'Woody'

Credit: Jerry ‘Woody’

The agreement will reduce emissions at coal-fired power plants in Bay County and other parts of Michigan, and fund projects to benefit the environment and communities.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumers has agreed to install pollution control technology to reduce harmful air pollution from the company’s five coal-fired power plants, including the Karn-Weadock complex in Bay County’s Hampton Township.

The settlement with EPA resolves claims that the company violated the Clean Air Act by modifying their facilities and releasing excess sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

EPA expects the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by more than 46,500 tons per year. The company estimates that it will spend more than $1 billion to implement the required measures.

The settlement requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $2.75 million and at least $7.7 million on environmental efforts to help mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution and benefit local communities. The new spending will include up to $4 million on the development or installation of renewable energy projects.

Consumers officials say the agreement does not include any admission of wrongdoing.

Consumers says its operation and those of many U.S. energy providers were reviewed as part of an EPA enforcement initiative that began in 1999. That initiative has resulted in more than 25 settlements nationwide.

2Several areas in Michigan will benefit from $12 million in grants for Great Lakes restoration.

The money comes from Sustain Our Great Lakes, a public-private partnership that includes the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and ArcelorMittal, a steel and mining company.

The grants cover 31 projects to restore and enhanced wetlands in the basin, restore fish passage and improve habitat, and control invasive species.

Ten of those projects are in Michigan.

Huron Pines in Gaylord received money to replace three culverts and reconnect nine miles of the Black River with Lake Huron and provide stream access for coaster brook trout and other fish. The nonprofit also will conduct work in the Cheyboygan River watershed to reconnect 20 upstream miles, reduce sediment inputs, and improve fish habitat.

3Lake Huron is back, especially when it comes to fishing.

A recent report from the state Department of Natural Resources says the number of charter fishing trips taken on the lake in 2013 was the second-highest in the past five years.

There has been continued improvement in the lake’s walleye fishery.

The average Lake Huron charter fishing party targeting walleye could expect to come home with nine walleye in the cooler in 2010 and release another three. In 2013, the average walleye charter trip produced 14 fish for the table and another eight that were released.

Most of the lake’s walleye fishing is concentrated in Saginaw Bay.

According to calculations by Michigan State University and other partners, more than $671,000 in personal income was generated by Michigan’s charter fishing industry at Lake Huron ports in 2013; with a total economic output of $1.82 million.

 

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Trash from Canada Going Up, Weadock Plant Shutting Down .. and Trees

1 – More trash went into Michigan landfills last year.

According to the latest solid waste report from the Department of Environmental Quality, state residents are throwing away less trash, with volumes down a half percent in fiscal year 2013 compared to 2012.

Still, overall waste to state landfills increased by 1.4 percent, due to a rise in garbage from other states and Canada.

Michigan landfills took in almost 7.7 million cubic yards of trash from Canada in 2013, and about 34.5 million cubic yards from state residents.

solid waste landfills michigan

Solid waste landfills in the Bay City, Michigan, area. Click for the full map from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

At current rates, Michigan has about 28 years left before its landfills are at capacity.

Bay County residents disposed of about 380,000 cubic yards of trash. Saginaw County threw out about 708,000 cubic yards.

The report covers the 2013 fiscal year, from October 2012 through September 2013. Read the whole thing here.

2Consumers Energy is shutting down some of its coal-burning power plants, including in Bay County.

Consumers has hired an engineering company called AMEC to decommission seven operating units at its three oldest coal-fired generating plants.

The units are located at the Karn-Weadock complex on Saginaw Bay in Hampton Township, the J.R. Whiting site in Monroe County, and the B.C. Cobb site in Muskegon.

The Weadock portion of the Karn-Weadock complex will be decommissioned, according to The Muskegon Chronicle. Consumers officials have told Michigan regulators that it’s not economical to bring those units (7 and 8) into compliance with federal air quality standards.

The units being shut down across the state have been operating for an average of 60 years, and Consumers plans to retire them by April 2016.

Consumers Energy plans to purchase a 540-megawatt, natural-gas power plant in Jackson to partially offset the planned retirements.

3The ground may be frozen, but trees for planting are available.

The Bay County Soil Conservation District is again sponsoring a spring tree sale.

You can order seedlings of spruce, pine and fir in quantities of 50, 100, 500, or 1,000.

Transplant species of spruce, pine, cedar, balsam and fir can be ordered in multiples of five.

Fruit trees such as apple, pear and cherry also are available, along with strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and grape plants.

For more information, you can call the District office at 684-1040. The District also holds another tree sale in the fall.

– Mr. Great Lakes, as heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

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