Alaska, Harbor News, Health

DEC fines Railroad and Coal Facility, mandates dust-control projects

 By Heidi Zemach for Seward City News

Loading Coal onto a barge at Seward Coal facility June 2010
Loading Coal onto a barge at Seward Coal facility June 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alaska Railroad Corporation and Aurora Energy Services, LLC have signed a compliance order with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation over two alleged violations of air quality regulations concerning dust emissions at the Seward Coal Terminal. The compliance order (based on two Notices Of Violations dated April 13, 2007 and March 13 2008) imposes a $212,900 civil fine of which $165,000 will apply as mitigation for the cost of implementing three required supplemental environmental projects (SEPs). The Railroad and Aurora also must pay ADEC all of its fees and expenses incurred by the state in connection with the investigation and enforcement of the violations over the past three years, and until the projects are completed.

The required SEP projects are:
• Installing multiple high pressure spray bars inside the chute on the tail section of BC1-BC10 with multiple nozzles that make small water droplets which are better able to attach to fine dust particles than large droplets; Having multiple spray bars operating will help control the uniform wetting of coal. All of the water lines leading to the spray bars will be heat traced to allow for winter operation of the system. A flow meter will be installed to gauge to measure the amount of water added. Meanwhile the existing spray bars on BC 11 will remain as backup in the event that more moisture is needed to be added to the coal.
• Adding a high pressure pump and flow meter along with new spray bars at the end of the boom on S/R. All piping will be heat traced from the onboard storage tanks to the spray bars to allow for winter operations. This high pressure spray system will better adhere to the smaller dust particles sometimes produced during reclaiming and stacking operations. The current spray bars can not produce this high pressure mist.
• Sealing up the chute between the trailer conveyor and boom conveyor on the stacker/reclaimer and adding a fogging (mist) system inside the chute. The sealed chute will allow the dust generated during the transfer of material through it to be contained, and the fogger will help settle out fine particulate matter created during the transfer process.

In addition, the settlement order mandates ARRC and Aurora to maintain all of its new coal dust mitigation equipment, controls and systems; to monitor all ship loading, railcar unloading, or stockpile activities at the coal terminal—including the date and time of all activities, wind speed and direction, and to specify which activities generates coal dust, and the activities done to stop it; and to immediately report any noncompliance. It sets in place streamlined procedures for public complaints—and must immediately investigate and report all complaints about coal dust to ADEC. (* complaint procedures info)

ADEC’s attention was called to the alleged air quality violations by the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance in Seward which has a live monitoring web cam on its office building, and has been observing operations at the facility. Between Feb-April 2007, ADEC received 25 public complaints and 75 photographs purported to show coal dust being emitted into the ambient air and being deposited on adjacent properties, vessels, and in Resurrection Bay. In response, ADEC personnel investigated on site, and observed the same phenomenon first-hand. Among other evidence, they discovered nonfunctioning bag houses that were originally meant to collect dust, and spray bars that were inoperable in the freezing temperatures. In both cases, DEC investigators concluded that the railroad had violated Alaska’s Air Quality Control regulations. The settlement agreement makes clear however that the order should not be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing, or to be an admission of any fact or legal conclusion on the part of the railroad or coal facility.

 
“It’s a great milestone. I am gratified with the progress at the facility. It acknowledges the magnitude of the problem and creates an ambitious plan to minimize fugitive dust in the future,” said RBCA’s activism director Russ Maddox. “Now that these enforcement cases are settled under the existing regulations, hopefully our stalled efforts to codify tighter fugitive dust regulations will now move forward, if not by administrative channels, then we will initiate legislation in the next session.”

Larger than usual coal pile April 18 awaits barge March 29 and mid-June. Twelve ships are expected in 2010 or 800-840,000 tons Larger than usual coal pile April 18 awaits barge March 29 and mid-June. Twelve ships are expected in 2010 or 800-840,000 tons

(*The ARRC Complaint procedures:
Deliver a written complaint directly to the Coal Loading Facility offices at 903 Port Avenue in Seward. Normal business hours are 8-5 M-F, but when ship-loading operations are occurring, AES staff are present virtually around the clock. Due to safety concerns during operations, hand delivery should be made only to the business office, not elsewhere on the grounds of the facility.
• Deliver a verbal or written complaint to the following ARRC or AES managers, who are often on-site during coal handling operations:
• AES General Manager (currently Rob Brown) (907-378-3529)
• AES General Foreman (currently Vic Stoltz) (907-224-5697)
• AES Officer Manager (907-224-3120)
• ARRC Director of Facilities (currently Paul Farnsworth) (907-265-2540)
• Leave a message on ARRC’s dedicated phone line (907-265-2374) or email coaldust@akrr.com (contact information is also posted on ARRC’s website). These are routinely checked during normal business hours and forwarded to the facility for response.)

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13 Comments

  1. Perfect!

    Now, when are they going to do the same EVERY TIME the street sweepers come and raise a cloud of fine-particulate razor-sharp quartz to lacerate and scar my lungs to a point of non-functionality (after years of exposure)? By comparison, the coal dust is merely an eyesore as it coats rooftops.

  2. Oh, sorry. The quartz raised by the street sweepers doesn’t come from the coal. It comes from the gravel laid on the streets, in winter, by the city.

  3. Hopefully we will have the air quality monitors soon, then we will know exactly what is in the air. Vanta

  4. Did you miss the $35 Million in the State 2010 budget to build a Mat Su Railroad port?

    That is the coal saying goodbye to Seward.

  5. I would LOVE to see the Coal piles leave Seward. I couldn’t help but notice their initial respsonse to the law suit, was to add two or more train loads of COAL per week coming to Seward!
    Very happy to hear that something is going to be done and hopefully soon!

  6. Is anyone concerned that when not if the coal leaves Seward the amount of revenue this city will lose or does anyone really care.

  7. Nobody really cares because the city doesn’t get revenue from the coal facility. The Railroad charges fees for the ship to dock, and the jobs created are few and far between.

    Besides, the dust and other externalities that the coal facility creates cost much more than the benefits recieved.

    This sounds callous, but the Point Mackenzie location is perfect for this type of noxious facility – far away (by land at least) from neighborhoods and in an industrial area.

  8. First of all the people that comment without using their own names are probably not even from Alaska. I just want to make sure that whoever reads this knows that the coal facility employees over 15 people. Those 15 people all have families that live here in Seward and spend their money here. That means that if those people loose their jobs they will go on unemployment until they find another job here in Seward and if you read the economic development study there are no jobs. Most businesses are trying to get out of here already. Everybody polutes one way or the other. If you want to complain about something it should be the fact that the City of Seward is trying to get a renewed permit to continue to dump raw sewage into Resurrection Bay out at Lowell Point. Look at the last page in the Seward Phoenix. If you live inside the city limits that means that is your waste going into the bay. People who live outside the city limits have leak fields and it hauled away and disposed of legally. So hopefully when you are fishing for your salmon off the beaches in Seward you will think twice before you actually consume that fish.

  9. The coal teminal not only provides jobs for local folks but employess people from Anchorage and beyound, they need places to stay, places to eat and buy gas.

  10. I agree. If a business creates jobs they should be able to put whatever they want into the bay or our air.

  11. “Alaska Railroad Corporation and Aurora Energy Services, LLC have signed a compliance order with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation over two alleged violations of air quality regulations concerning dust emissions at the Seward Coal Terminal. The compliance order (based on two Notices Of Violations dated April 13, 2007 and March 13 2008)”
    “It’s a great milestone. I am gratified with the progress at the facility. It acknowledges the magnitude of the problem and creates an ambitious plan to minimize fugitive dust in the future,” said RBCA’s activism director Russ Maddox.

    This is how things work.
    In simpler terms; you have a brake light out, get a citation, then fix it. We’re all safer for it.
    Thank you to both entities.

  12. Sorry, the above comment was mine. Clicked submit before putting my name in.

  13. Ships loading coal (or any cargo) in a port = $ for the local economy. Tug boats, fuel, longshoremen, supplies for ship, supplies for terminal, crew members going ashore and buying over priced Alaska t-shirts, etc. 15 or so jobs at the terminal also add to the local economy. Identify the problem, as per ADEC, fix the problem and go back to work. what is the status of the air quality meters that were going to be installed? How much is coal dust and how much is glacier slit and road dust?