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Owner of Susquehanna River coal plant fined $1 million, forced to address pollution flowing to Chesapeake Bay

The owner of a coal power plant on the Susquehanna River just north of the Maryland line is being forced to pay a $1 million penalty and take action to reduce pollution leaking into the river and flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.

Talen Energy and the Brunner Island coal plant reached a consent decree with environmental groups and regulators in Pennsylvania that was expected to be filed in federal court Wednesday. The plant in York Haven is about 50 miles upstream of the Chesapeake, on a river that provides the bulk of the fresh water that flows into the Maryland portion of the bay.

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The groups raised concerns in August 2018 about pollutants including arsenic, boron and lithium leaking into groundwater and the Susquehanna from unlined ponds storing coal ash waste. In the settlement, the plant owner agreed to investigate and address the groundwater contamination and speed up the planned closure of one coal ash basin that is still in active use.

“Talen is committed to complying with all environmental regulations and will continue to focus on the safe, efficient and reliable operation of our plants,” said Debra Raggio, the company’s senior vice president for regulatory and external affairs counsel, in a statement.

The environmental groups Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, Waterkeeper Alliance and PennEnvironment, represented by the Environmental Integrity Project, said the agreement was a strong step toward reducing coal ash pollution that could encourage similar cleanups around the country.

The agreement also requires Talen Energy to contribute $100,000 toward other local water quality initiatives.

“The projects funded by this settlement will help ensure we are leaving the Lower Susquehanna River in better shape for future generations,” said Ted Evgeniadis, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “And those of us who use and enjoy the Lower Susquehanna River can rest easier tonight knowing that concrete measures and timelines are in place to reduce toxic pollution in the river.”

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