Smokestack emissions in Beaver won't pose hazards
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FirstEnergy officials said the July 22 smokestack emissions that covered an area in Beaver County south of the Bruce Mansfield Plant in Shippingport with soot will have no long-term impact on human or animal health as long as some precautions are taken.
The main ones, they said, are to wash one's hands and wipe off one's face after being outside.
Cynthia Goodman, an official of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, recommended that people also wear face masks when cutting grass in the area affected by the pollution,
The Mansfield coal-fired power plant is owned and operated by FirstEnergy Generation Corp.
A team of FirstEnergy officials gave a 45-minute presentation to Shippingport council members and about 30 others last night at the borough building to explain why the incident occurred and what impact it is having on an area that includes parts of Shippingport and extends five miles into Raccoon Township.
A citizens group is planning to release information on the environmental impact of the emissions discerned from independent testing at 7 p.m. tonight at the Shippingport Community Building.
The plume of soot was emitted from the smokestack, company officials said, because two induced-draft fans were being cleaned while still in operation, a common practice at the plant. But in this case, water laden with soot was drawn up the smokestack and spewed the pollutant into the air in a south-southwestern direction.
The company said it no longer would wash the fans while they are in operation to prevent a recurrence, which FirstEnergy officials said was unique.
FirstEnergy said, however, incidents of stack rain could continue although the company is working to reduce those occurrences. Stack rain is the emission of a gray chalky material consisting of water, lime, calcium and other materials that constitutes more of a nuisance than a hazard.
The state Department of Environment Protection launched an investigation shortly after the July 22 episode during which a black plume spewed from the plant's smokestack between 5 and 7:30 p.m.
DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said the smokestack emission that Saturday prompted a battery of complaints from residents throughout the area. Soot showed up on surfaces 11/2 miles from the plant, extending into Raccoon Township.
"Everything was black," Shippingport Police Chief Mike Pantaleo said. "Our police car was totally black. It was unbelievable. We washed it three times."
He said roads looked as though they were covered with tar, and people came to the police station and looked as though something had sprayed black paint on them.
Both the DEP and FirstEnergy have done tests since the incident.
At the time, the DEP said laboratory tests indicated the residue was acidic and contained silica and fly ash, a byproduct of the coal-burning process in the 2,360-megawatt power plant. Fly ash can contain potentially hazardous heavy metals.
FirstEnergy officials said their results showed the residue contained calcium sulfate and coal soot with only traces of fly ash.
Donald C. Bluedorn II, a FirstEnergy attorney, said the company has compensated residents for the losses of their gardens, orchards, hay fields and crops and bought the full harvest of honey from beekeepers affected by the pollution.
The company offered to power-wash affected houses, cars and driveways in central Beaver County. It hired mowing companies to cut grass and collect and dispose of soot-laden clippings. It also hired companies to clean swimming pools.
The borough park was closed for about five days so facilities could be power-washed, grass could be mowed and the clippings could be removed. New borough flags hung for the Fourth of July had to be dry-cleaned.
First Published October 17, 2006 12:00 am