A new air-quality study at the Mirant power plant in Alexandria, which supplies electricity to about 400,000 homes in Maryland and the District through Pepco, indicated that it was exceeding state limits for pollutants.
On Wednesday, the plant shut down, although the closure might be temporary.
Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille (D) shared his thoughts last week about the plant on the Potomac shoreline and its closure with staff writer Jamie Stockwell.
QWhat is your reaction to the temporary shuttering of the Mirant Potomac River Generating Station?
AThe city is extremely gratified by the decision to close the plant. We are convinced that closure is the only safe, effective and responsible way to remedy the serious Clean Air Act violations at the plant, which, depending on the pollutant, were exceeding the safe standard by two to 14 times.
The facts speak for themselves -- the pollutants emitted from the plant were negatively impacting the health of Alexandria residents. Above all, the health and welfare of Alexandria's residents have been the far-reaching concern for me and the City Council.
What types of concerns do you have about the daily operation of the Mirant plant, and are those concerns at all allayed with its temporary closure?
The internal safety of the plant's operation has never been in question. It's the plant's end product, the number and level of pollutants it emits, that causes concern.
Mirant's own study shows that the plant violates the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for three pollutants: sulfur dioxide, seven to 14 times the standard; particulate matter, three times the standard; and nitrogen oxide, two times the standard.
Yes, our concerns are allayed with the plant's temporary closing, but we remain vigilant regarding future proceedings.
What measures must Mirant officials take before the city will approve its reopening?
The city is deeply concerned that these violations of the NAAQS likely have been occurring for many years, possibly since they were adopted. . . .
In addition, in papers recently filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, Mirant describes its Potomac River plant as "functionally obsolete" and states that, because of physical deterioration to the plant, "the remaining useful life [of this facility] as of January 1, 2002, is estimated at 5 years."
In light of these facts, approving capital improvements . . . would contravene the spirit, if not the letter, of the Clean Air Act, as well as the city's zoning ordinance.
Accordingly . . . the only appropriate enforcement action is the complete and permanent cessation of operations at the facility as soon as is practicable.
What is the full impact of the plant's closure?
I believe that the closure of this plant will benefit not only Alexandria's residents, but residents in Arlington and the District of Columbia as well. Remember, the prevailing winds often carry these pollutants to our neighbors in Virginia and across the river.
What is next for the Mirant plant?
In a conference call [Friday] with emergency managers in the metropolitan region, Pepco's representatives reiterated that their system can safely and adequately handle any anticipated load without this plant. The city will strenuously oppose any attempt to reopen this plant.