ROCKVILLE, Md., Oct. 4, 2017 — All nine members of the Montgomery County Council sent a letter asking Benjamin H. Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, to help reduce toxic coal waste from the Dickerson power plant and other coal-fired plants in the State.
In a letter to Grumbles, the Councilmembers asked State officials to abide by current standards adopted by the federal EPA in 2015 when they renew the water pollution permit for NRG Energy Inc.’s Dickerson Generating Station on the Potomac River in northwest Montgomery County.
“Coal plant waste is a toxic stew of pollutants — including arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium — that is toxic to humans, marine life and the whole environment,” said Councilmember Tom Hucker, lead Councilmember for the Environment, who led the initiative. “These poisons, after they’re discharged into the river and ingested by humans, can cause cancer, heart and nervous system disorders; damage the kidneys and liver; and impair the brain development of our children.”
“As stewards of a clean and safe environment for our children and all residents of Montgomery County, I join several of my colleagues in asking the Maryland Department of Environment to reduce toxic coal waste from the Dickerson Generating Station,” said Councilmember Floreen. “It’s imperative the State abide by current standards adopted by the federal EPA in 2015 to protect our water from the pollutants that coal plant waste produces.”
“Requiring coal plants in Maryland to adopt the EPA’s toxic coal waste standards is in line with our County’s commitment to protecting our waterways and our citizens from dangerous pollutants,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro. “Taking the initiative to reduce the release of these toxins into our environment will go a long way in protecting the viability of our planet for future generations.”
“As we have seen from the Flint Water Crisis, toxins and pollutants entering the water supply can have a devastating and long lasting effects,” said Councilmember Leventhal, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “The Council stands united in urging the State of Maryland abide by the current standards set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency.”
“The updated guidelines for reducing toxic coal waste adopted by the EPA in 2015 were supported by hundreds of thousands of comments from the public and were to be incorporated into coal plant permits as they are renewed,” said Council President Berliner. “With the nutrients from this pollution already causing dead zones across the Chesapeake Bay, it is past time our state stepped up to require this power plant operate by modern water pollution standards.”
“It is time to require that the updated technology be used at the Dickerson plant,” said Councilmember Elrich. “It is currently available, has been used elsewhere and will eliminate most of the toxic pollutants that seep into the water. The advances in our understanding of health impacts from these toxins has radically changed since the 1980s when the prior regulations were implemented. 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.”
Coal plants are the number one source of toxic water pollution in the country. The standards in the federal water pollution permit that the Maryland Department of the Environment proposes to renew at Dickerson and two other coal plants in the state are 35 years old.
After investigating the impact of toxic discharges from power plants into waterways for six years, the EPA in 2015 issued new requirements under the Clean Water Act. President Trump’s EPA put a hold on the improved requirements this year, but the County Council is urging the State to implement the new requirements immediately.
Other coal plants in the country have reduced or eliminated their discharge of these toxins into waterways, and Maryland’s should too, Hucker said.
“Many of these pollutants stay in the environment for years,” Hucker said. “Maryland can — and must — help protect its residents, including our children, and the environment from these poisons.”