Longview Power Asks Judge to OK Pa Settlement

Washington PA Observer Reporter
13 October 2014
Staff and wire reports

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Longview Power is seeking a bankruptcy judge’s approval of a settlement with Pennsylvania regulators that would allow a subsidiary to continue to discharge treated mine water into Dunkard Creek.

Longview operates a 700-megawatt coal-fired plant in Maidsville, W.Va. Subsidiary Dana Mining and another company, AMD Reclamation Inc., operate the Steele Shaft Treatment Facility in Pennsylvania. The facility pumps water from closed and abandoned mines that are not owned by the companies so Dana Mining can safely mine coal reserves. The mine water is treated and discharged into Dunkard Creek.

In a filing last week, Longview said it would have to invest in additional treatment facilities to meet requirements implemented by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection since the facility received a discharge permit in 2003. The permit was up for renewal in 2008 and was extended pending the issuance of a new permit.

The settlement arose from negotiations between Longview and the Pennsylvania agency to determine an alternative means of compliance with the state’s new requirements, according to the company’s filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Under the settlement, the existing treatment facility’s capacity and reach would be expanded, which Longview said would reduce or eliminate discharges into Dunkard Creek. The companies also would monitor aquatic life in Dunkard Creek.

Spokesmen for Dana Mining and Longview could not be reached for comment. A DEP spokesman also could not be reached Monday, which was a holiday.

AMD built the Steele Shaft treatment plant in 2003 with funding from Pennsylvania to treat polluted water from the abandoned Shannopin Mine. Acidic water in the mine had reached a level at which it could breach the surface and pollute Dunkard Creek.

Dana also needed to lower the level of water in the Shannopin mine to continue mining the Sewickley seam coal which it mines above the Pittsburgh seam mined by Shannopin. Rising water in Shannopin began to flood the Sewickley seam jeopardizing Dana’s mining operations.

Dana later began treating water at Steele Shaft from the closed Humphrey Mine as its mining operations moved into the Humphrey Mine area, an action opposed by several environmental groups that argued no threat of a mine water breakout existed at Humphrey and the de-watering was only being done to enable Dana to mine.

Steele Shaft treats the mine water for acidity and heavy metals, but it does not treat the water for its high levels of total dissolved solids, which contributed to the fish kill in 2009 in Dunkard Creek, though up steam from the Steele Shaft.

The company and DEP had proposed an earlier plan for the Steele Shaft that involved building a 9-mile pipeline from Steele Shaft to the Monongahela River. With the pipeline, water discharged from the plant would bypass the portion of the creek from the plant downstream to the river where it would easily be diluted.

The plan also called for developing a system to collect water from other acid mine discharges along Dunkard Creek downstream from the Steele Shaft that also now pollute the creek.

Dana Mining and AMD Reclamation also would establish a trust fund with an initial $300,000 payment, followed by annual $300,000 payments for up to 19 years.

The Dominion Post reported the company’s filing.

Longview filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware in August 2013.

In September, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brenda L. Shannon granted Longview’s request to settle a lawsuit alleging pollution violations at subsidiaries Coresco and Mepco. The Sierra Club and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg in 2012.