Sierra Club Files Suit Against Power Plant Discharging Heated Wastewater

Oct. 22, 2019

GenOn Power Midwest is facing a suit filed by the Sierra Club for allegedly violating its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.

The Sierra Club has filed suit against GenOn Power Midwest, claiming its coal-fired generating station is discharging heated wastewater into the Allegheny River, reported the Pennsylvania Record

This is in violation of its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law.

"The recreational interests of [Sierra Club] members have been harmed by the discharge of heated wastewater into the Allegheny River. Members have refrained from kayaking and swimming activities in the Allegheny due to Cheswick’s discharges of heated wastewater into the Allegheny River," according to the suit

Sierra Club previously sent a “notice of intent to sue” letter to GenOn Power Midwest in July 2019, alleging serious violations of the Clean Water Act at the company’s Cheswick coal-fired power plant. The plant had been discharging heated wastewater into the Allegheny River at temperatures over nine times what is currently allowed.

According to the permit the facility cannot cause the temperature of the water to increase more than two degrees in a one hour time period. 

"The facts demonstrate that in addition to the eight violations in 2018, on at least four separate days in 2019, GenOn violated its permit by discharging heat from outfall 003 that raised the temperature of the Allegheny River by more than 2 degrees for at least one hour," reported the suit.

“We were shocked but not surprised to hear from the company’s engineer that nothing has been done to mitigate the wastewater problem at Cheswick in the seven years since the problem was first identified,” said Patrick Grenter, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “While thermal pollution might not be as visibly destructive as some other pollutants, what’s going on at Cheswick should be a concern for all Pennsylvanians who rely on clean water in the Allegheny for recreation and fishing.”

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Cristina Tuser