Test results released by the state Environmental Protection Division (EDP) show Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) emissions estimates within acceptable state standards.
According to EPD director of communications Kevin Chambers, a spreadsheet produced by the agency’s Air Protection Division shows the “actual emissions estimates at the facility based on their performance test and expected operating conditions for a year.”
“It (the testing) shows that all emissions are in line with or less than that which was estimated in the permit application,” wrote Chambers. “All emissions are within acceptable standards. Based on the results of the testing, Georgia EPD does not have any particular concerns with emissions from the boiler. We are awaiting results of the re-tests of hydrogen chloride and chlorine and will forward those once they're received and reviewed. The test team did not collect enough samples during those tests to meet the requirements of the test method. They did not exceed any emissions standards during those tests.”
GRP President Steve Dailey said he was pleased with the results.
"Georgia Renewable Power is proud and gratified with the recent findings by the Environmental Protection Department showing that the biomass plants in Madison and Franklin counties have consistently met all emissions standards since the plants went into operation last year,” said Dailey. “We understand there have been concerns about this issue within both communities, and hope these findings will help people feel more comfortable with the plants and our commitment to operating them safely. We will continue to be diligent in making sure the concerns of nearby residents are addressed, and to making sure their questions are answered. At the same time, no one has higher expectations or demands for how these plants operate than we do. That is our commitment, and we believe these findings support that."
Representatives from the Madison County Clean Power Coalition said the emissions deserve more scrutiny.
“Perhaps to the plant owners who live so far away, the recent EPD tests indicate a rosy picture of the plant’s success,” wrote Wendy Sue Meehan, a member of MCCPC, who has an MPD in environmental toxicologist from Columbia University. “Emissions all appear to meet the newly neutered EPD standards as prescribed by the EPA. But look a little closer at the pollutants being released into the air: dibromoethane, acetaldehyde, acrolein, arsenic, benzene, chromium, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen chloride, lead, manganese, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, silver compounds, sulfur dioxide, styrene, toluene, and volatile organic compounds are all being pumped daily into the air in our county, courtesy of Georgia Renewable Power and Veolia.”
Meehand said the stack emissions from the plant are a “scary reality, especially for those living around the plant.”
“But perhaps worse is the immediate pollution from the surface area runoff from the plant into our streams and groundwater,” she said. “And of equal concern, there is the constant chemical-heavy dust from the wood pile that blows across streams, cropland, and pastures. Chipped railroad ties, along with shredded wood of unknown origin, deposit toxic chemicals that are poisoning our crops, livestock, and water supply. And as a daily reminder of the toxic emissions, the power plant also pollutes the air with the shrill sounds of steam, fans, grinding, and other plant operations.”
Dave Ramsey, a MCCPC member and who retired from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the tests leave a lot unanswered.
“While the test results provided by Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) for the Colbert plant appear to be going in the right direction, pollution from the anticipated emissions is staggering,” said Ramsey in a letter published in this week’s Journal. “We accept the determination by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division that the self-reported test results are within limits. The test methods are not specified in all cases, and the test method for VOC’s — method 25A as noted in the GRP application, should be discounted and a re-test done since the EPA acknowledges that this test method is not quantitatively accurate. There is no explanation of the reason for such a dramatic drop in VOC’s (from 199 tons/year previously estimated to 1.94 tons/year currently estimated), and that leaves the VOC test results in question. We will ask EPD to investigate further. GRP should not be given any approvals until all re-testing has been completed and reported to EPD.”