Yorkers share concerns about Brunner Island's effect on regional waterways

Brunner Island
  • About a dozen people spoke during DEP's Brunner Island meeting Monday night.
  • The meeting was about the plant's draft NPDES permit.
  • The comments were taken into consideration, and the DEP will look into potentially implementing them when finalizing the draft.

About two dozen people showed up to the Union Fire Co. building in Manchester on Monday night to share public comment regarding Brunner Island's permit renewal to discharge waste into local waterways.

The updated permit is an extension of one issued a decade ago, and environmental boosters say additional oversight is overdue.

Among those in attendance were York City resident Lettice Brown. She said residents have been working hard to clean up the Codorus Creek, which is a tributary of the Susquehanna River.

“If we are pushing our efforts to keep our closest waterway clean, only for it to empty into a river that is being polluted by a major industry who is not held to the standards that many other industries and municipalities are held to, then our efforts seem drastically dim," she said.

Brown said conservation is a "collaborative effort" and that without everyone working together, those helping to conserve the water are basically "running in place."

She said Brunner Island needs to "bite that bullet" to meet those standards.

The draft permit was issued in April, and the environmental watchdog group Sierra Club, requested the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hold a public comment session.

Patrick Grenter, of the Sierra Club, speaks during a Brunner Island DEP meeting Monday, July 24, 2017. Christopher Dornblaser photo.

Permit: John Repetz, spokesman for the state DEP, said the permits establish limits of what can be discharged into the water, and the draft permit issued has been updated to meet the latest standards.

A permit is issued every five years.

Officials from the DEP took the comments and will consider them when crafting the final permit.

Brunner Island's last NPDES permit was issued more than 10 years ago, and Patrick Grenter, a senior campaign representative for the  Sierra Club, said the current permit is outdated by five years.

According to a fact sheet about the permit, Brunner Island, a York Haven power plant, has been operating on an extended permit since its last one expired in August 2011. 

Comments: About a dozen people in attendance spoke during the public comment  period Monday night.

Among the concerns from some speakers was arsenic, which both Grenter and Dr. Alan Peterson, from Lancaster General Health, addressed.

Peterson said arsenic, a pollutant, is a known carcinogen.

"Current parameters to protect exposures are inadequate," he said.

DEP investigates fish kill near Brunner Island

He also said monitoring requirements for the facility are inadequate and that Brunner Island should be shut down until it complies with the Clean Water Act.

Dan Ryan, a biologist with the state Fish and Boat Commission, said the commission calls on the DEP to enforce operation of the cooling towers year-round.

Ryan said there have been fish kills resulting from faulty operating procedures or malfunctioning of the station's cooling towers.

Steve Mohr, who is a supervisor for Conoy Township in Lancaster County stressed that he would like to see Brunner Island remain.

“It’ll be a hell of a lot harder finding a tenant for that than it will for the Macy’s that’s going to close at the mall, I’m going to tell you,” he said.

He said people will often take pictures of themselves from his side of the river in front of the plant, because it's a "sign of progress."

"Please don't have one of the options of just shutting down Brunner Island," he said.

While the comments were heard, there was no immediate response from the DEP.

Repetz said representatives from the department will take the comments and questions into account and will  respond to them.

The NPDES draft permit and the permit's fact sheet may be viewed here.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.