Programs & Centers

GenOn Coal Combustion Waste Consent Decree

Overview
The 2013 Consent Decree
Documents related to implementation of the Consent Decree

Overview

In May 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland entered a Consent Decree, resolving three complaints filed by Maryland Department of the Environment (“MDE”) against GenOn Maryland Ash Management, LLC and GenOn Mid-Atlantic, LLC.  (Note that GenOn formerly operated as “Mirant” and currently operates as “NRG Energy.”)

The complaints alleged multiple violations of the federal Clean Water Act at three coal combustion waste landfills in Maryland: the Brandywine Landfill in Prince George’s County, the Faulkner Landfill in Charles County, and the Westland Landfill in Montgomery County.  The map below shows the locations of these landfills.


View Location of the Brandywine Landfill, the Faulkner Landfill and the Westland Landfill in a larger map

Coal combustion waste ("CCW"), often referred to as “coal ash,” is the waste product from burning coal in power plants and can contain heavy metals and other toxic materials.  When CCW is exposed to storm water or groundwater, it forms leachate.  If not properly controlled, leachate can transport CCW pollutants to surface waters and groundwater, where it can adversely impact human health and the environment.

In 2009, environmental organizations Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Patuxent Riverkeeper, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, represented by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic and the Environmental Integrity Project, sent a Notice of Intent to Sue letter to GenOn regarding alleged Clean Water Act violations at the Brandywine Landfill.  This letter triggered MDE’s filing of its federal complaint regarding the Brandywine Landfill.  After the complaint was filed, the environmental organizations successfully intervened in MDE’s federal suit and participated in the settlement process.  MDE later filed additional complaints alleging Clean Water Act violations at GenOn’s Faulkner and Westland CCW landfills.

The 2013 Consent Decree

The Consent Decree, obligates GenOn to take the following actions:

  • Pay a civil penalty of $1.9 million to MDE.
  • Cap all closed CCW disposal cells.
  • Install liner systems on all leachate and stormwater collection ponds
  • Assess potential contamination of drinking water wells within a one-half mile radius of each landfill site, and remediate any and all contaminated drinking water wells.
  • Study the nature and extent of the contamination at each of the landfills.
  • Implement corrective measures to control the existing pollution and prevent additional discharges.

In addition, the Consent Decree requires MDE to draft updated Clean Water Act permits for each of the landfills.  These permits will contain water quality based effluent limitations, limitations based on Best Available Technology, limitations for acute whole effluent toxicity, and, if necessary, monitoring requirements for chronic whole effluent toxicity.

Furthermore, the Consent Decree requires MDE to provide the environmental organizations which intervened with copies of many of GenOn’s submissions and MDE’s determinations.  Throughout the implementation of the Consent Decree, the Environmental Law Clinic will post these documents and related communications to this webpage.

Documents related to implementation of the Consent Decree

Public documents related to the implementation of the Consent Decree are available below.  This list was last updated on August 26, 2013.

  1. Assessment of Drinking Water Well Contamination.

    GenOn submitted the following proposed plans for assessing the potential contamination of drinking water wells to MDE in June 2013. These plans are subject to approval by MDE:

    In August 2013, the intervenors submitted the following letter to MDE highlighting several concerns regarding the plans:

    On October 3, 2013, MDE sent GenOn the following letter requesting GenOn to make several changes to the proposed Drinking Water Well Assessment Plans, including sampling additional wells and analyzing samples for additional constituents.

  2. Studying the Nature and Extent of Contamination

    In July 2013, GenOn submitted to MDE proposed Scope of Works for Studying the nature and extent of contamination at the three CCW landfills. These Scope of Works are subject to MDE approval.


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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2014, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved