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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

State of Maryland To Sue Mirant Over Fly Ash Contamination

The State of Maryland plans to sue Mirant Mid-Atlantic and Mirant Maryland Ash Management in federal court for alleged violations of federal and state water pollution laws involving the disposing of coal combustion products at disposal sites in Montgomery and Charles counties.

According the Maryland Department of the Environment, unlined pits for disposing of coal waste from Mirant power plants have allegedly allowed toxic pollutants to leach into groundwater and streams from the Westland site in Montgomery County and from the Faulkner site in Charles County.

According to documents MDE filed Monday, discharge samples collected from wastewater collection ponds near the Westland site contained levels of arsenic, barium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, selenium and zinc that violated water quality standards. The ponds discharge water into unnamed streams, which run into the Potomac River.  Wastewater in the ponds is aerated and treated with soda ash, but that treatment is inadequate, MDE documents state, because one pond is not lined and another was unlined until 2010.

Groundwater monitoring wells near the Westland site, located on Martinsburg Road in Dickerson, also showed excessive levels of pollutants found in the pond discharge samples, except for chromium and cobalt. Heavy metals sink and leach from the pond into a groundwater aquifer, which also is linked to the Potomac, according to the documents.

Continued dumping in unlined pits poses a threat to the groundwater that most of the Sugarloaf and Dickerson communities rely on for drinking water. Agency documents say groundwater and discharge samples confirm that pollutants from the Faulkner disposal site appear to have harmed Bowling Creek, South Stream and tributaries of Zekiah Swamp Run.

In April, 2010, MDE filed suit in federal court against Mirant over similar violations at its disposal site in Brandywine. Documents that MDE filed notifying the company and federal officials of the state's intent to sue acknowledge that Mirant merged with RRI Energy Inc. to form GenOn Energy Inc. on Dec. 3, 2010. (Gazette Net, 1/5/2010)

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