Energy Center seeks EPA permit to dispose of wastewater in creek
Leaders in Lordstown Village oppose proposal
LORDSTOWN — Lordstown Energy Center has asked the state for permission to alternatively dispose of wastewater generated from making power, a request that, if approved, would save the company millions of dollars in sewer use fees.
Arguing back is Lordstown, which claims, in part, the village’s wastewater department would be harmed financially should the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency give the OK to bypass Lordstown and discharge some of the wastewater into Mud Creek.
The village’s top official also fears residents living downstream of the creek could experience flooding should the proposal win approval.
At the heart of the energy center’s proposal are usage fees that LEC states increased 118 percent in May 2019.
As it stands now, Lordstown has a 20-year agreement with the energy center to collect and transport its wastewater from the plant to Warren’s wastewater treatment center on Main Avenue SW, according to documents with the Ohio EPA.
Lordstown claims the energy center’s desire to disconnect breaches the contract and threatens to go to court to “be made financially whole” and take ownership of the entire discharge sanitary sewer installed for the energy center, those documents show.
Lordstown Energy Center is a 940-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant on Henn Parkway. Its two gas turbines and its steam turbine are powerful enough to produce and supply power to about 850,000 homes and businesses. Commercial operation started there in October 2018.
According to a report that LEC had done by San Diego-based Kleinfelder, an environmental professional and other services firm, the power plant and village agreed in April 2017 that LEC may discharge up to 1.3 million gallons of wastewater per day into the village’s collection system. The discharge flows average 570,000 gallons per day.
LEC buys its water from the village. Its wastewater is noncontact cooling water, which is water used to remove heat from industrial processes, multi-media filter backwash, discharges from emergency eyewash and shower stations and sewage.
In May 2019, the report states, the village increased LEC’s sewer user rate from $1.78 per 1,000 gallons to $3.89 per 1,000 gallons, and the rate was made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018.
At the daily maximum discharge amount, LEC would see an increase of about $1 million a year in sewer fees. At the average daily flow, the increase worked out to be $440,000 a year, the report states.
That would put the annual sewer cost for LEC at 570,000 gallons per day at about $800,000 a year and $1.8 million a year at the maximum discharge. The report projects over the 20-year contract period without any additional fee increases, LEC would spend $8.8 million to $20 million in fees above what it paid before the increase.
The reported also cited “the unpredictable nature of future sewer rate increases” as a reason to search out an alternative.
An analysis determined the most feasible option is to discharge the non-contact cooling water component of LEC’s wastewater to Mud Creek and continue to send the domestic / sanitary sewer component of the wastewater through Lordstown’s lines for treatment by Warren.
With this, LEC hired Kleinfelder to prepare a permit application to the Ohio EPA to bypass Lordstown and discharge that part of the wastewater to the creek, the report states.
The report Kleinfelder compiled for LEC was part of the power plant’s permit application filed in July 2020.
LEC wants Ohio EPA authorization to discharge an average of 700,000 gallons per day up to 1.3 million gallons per day of cooling water into the creek. Continued use of Lordstown’s collection system to convey the waste to Warren “represents an unacceptable cost as well as unacceptable economic risk,” the report states.
Two minimal degradation alternatives were presented in the report. Both keep the wastewater on site to cool before discharging into the creek. They are:
l Construct a 1.5-acre, 5-foot deep pond and 6-inch pipe to transport the liquid to the creek. The cost is estimated to be about $900,000 with all but $100,000 on construction, materials and engineering. The balance is for permitting.
l Build two 400-ton air-cooled mechanical chillers to reduce the temperature. Construction, material equipment and engineering would cost about $2.2 million. The permit is the same cost.
On-site cooling prior to discharge with the blessing of the Ohio EPA “is not only more economically viable for continuing to provide low-cost energy to the consumer, but also potentially provides relief for the downstream POTWs (publicly owned treatment works) receiving dilute influent. In addition, by removing LEC’s flow from the WPCF (Warren’s water pollution control facility), additional capacity would be available for future projects in the sewer service area,” the report states.
Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill said the rate increase goes back to Warren raising the rate it charges Lordstown. Lordstown is simply passing on the rate increase to its customer.
If LEC alternatively disposes of the wastewater, Hill said it creates stress on the village’s system, which LEC paid to upgrade to handle the additional flow.
“We’re telling them we do not want them to pull out everything because we need so much flow to go through with the new pumps just to be able to flex our system,” Hill said. “We have to make sure we have flow and what that flow includes is to make sure the pumps function OK, and if we don’t get so much flow you’re going to have sewage possibly lying in those lines, possibly creating a stink.”
According to a June letter from the village’s engineer, Christopher M. Kogelnik with CT Consultants in Youngstown, LEC has offered to continue to discharge a minimum flow of 50,000 gallons per month.
He wrote the number has no engineering and / or operational basis the village is aware of.
“The village is not going to waste time responding to arbitrary and baseless figures in order to reach a resolution of the contract dispute with LEC,” the letter states.
Other concerns surround the impact to residents living downstream when water levels rise in Mud Creek and on future development around LEC — land that is prime industrial property — over stormwater runoff.
Hill said LEC claims the discharge would raise the water level only one-tenth of 1 inch across the surface of Mud Creek, but “tell that to people who may be living downstream who get flooded out when there is a big flood.”
“They’re not going to be calling Lordstown Energy Center; they are going to be calling Lordstown village,” Hill said.
Having another impact will be a second similar plant that’s under development, Trumbull Energy Center. It already has a permit from the Ohio EPA to discharge directly to the creek.
Another concern is stormwater runoff in the highly industrial area of the township.
“There is no comprehensive plan for stormwater in order to adequately time the discharges of all the permitted stormwater discharges to Mud Creek Stream, but that is desperately needed in order to minimize any downstream flooding,” Kogelnik wrote.
Hill said, “With them wanting to possibly look at getting out of the sewer agreement, we have a lot of different avenues we have to look at, and we’re not going to agree to this until we make sure residents downstream are not harmed, Mud Creek is not harmed. There are a lot of other players other than the fact that LEC wants to save money by dumping into the creek.”
The Ohio EPA at Lordstown’s request has agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter. One has not yet been scheduled. The Ohio EPA is reviewing LEC’s permit request and has asked for additional information from LEC, according to a July letter from the agency’s Northeast District Office.
On July 12, LEC General Manager Thomas White wrote the Ohio EPA that LEC doesn’t want to burden the regulatory agency by engaging in a “lengthy back-and-forth regarding the many inaccurate assertions” by Lordstown’s engineer, “particularly as these unfounded statements are largely irrelevant” to the pending permit.
White, however, used part of the letter to respond to the claims by CT Consultants’ Kogelnik.
He wrote the assertion that LEC desires to disconnect from Lordstown is incorrect, but plans to maintain its current agreement with Lordstown to send the wastewater to Warren.
“Any reduction in flow to the village’s system will depend on permit requirements and associated costs to meet those requirements,” White wrote.
Also, CT Consultants has given no technical basis for the concern it stated regarding the increased flow to Mud Creek nor that a reduction in flow would create infrastructure or operational issues for the village’s system.
“And in fact, LEC and the village share a mutual goal of ensuring continued smooth operation of the village’s conveyance system — a system in which LEC has invested approximately $4,000,000 in improvements,” the letter states.
White also pointed out any reduction in discharge by LEC would benefit Warren’s treatment system.
Warren’s treatment system is at capacity.
Nils Swenson, commercial director and general manager for CEF-L Holding, LLC, the holding company for LEC, wrote in an email, “freeing up capacity in the system by our proposed discharge to Mud Creek would open up much-needed capacity that could be used by new business development in the area.”
Lordstown, he wrote, has asked LEC to maintain a minimum daily flow of 150,000 gallons, according to Swenson. Talks are happening between LEC and Lordstown to “arrive a mutually beneficial outcome,” he wrote.