- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The owner of a coal-fired power plant and coal ash landfill in Charles County has agreed to pay $1.9 million in fines and clean up three Maryland ash landfills from which waste escaped and polluted local waterways.
Houston-based GenOn, which merged with NRG Energy last month, agreed to pay the money to the Maryland Clean Water Fund, clean up the sites and pay fines starting at $1,000 per violation per day for future lapses, according to a consent decree between GenOn and the Maryland Department of the Environment.
The decree, which is not yet in effect, governs Faulkner Fly Ash Facility in Charles County as well as two similar sites in Brandywine in Prince George’s County and Dickerson in Montgomery County. The agreement is pending approval by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, a date for which has not yet been set, MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), whose district includes Faulkner, called the Faulkner dump an “environmental nightmare,” hailed the agreement and lauded the Environmental Integrity Project in Washington, D.C., which he said helped bring the issue to the attention of state government years ago.
EIP Director Eric V. Schaeffer did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.
The agreement is a boon, “certainly to the residents who live near that facility. Fly ash is a very ugly byproduct of coal. … We wanted to make sure it stopped and a cleanup will happen,” Robinson said.
At Faulkner, leachate, or water containing toxic byproducts of coal combustion, flowed into Bowling Creek, the South Stream and the North Stream. Groundwater flow from the 900-acre site, which was closed in 2010, ultimately reaches Zekiah Swamp, the decree states. Coal ash can contain chemicals including toxic metals arsenic, selenium and manganese, as well as sulfate and iron, which enter ground and surface waters if they escape from coal ash dumps, the MDE website states.
“We’re pleased that we’ve reached this agreement. It brings us one step closer to the cleanup of the sites. Many years of hard work have gotten us to this point,” Apperson said.
NRG spokesman David Gaier did not return calls seeking comment.