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Compromise lets AES expand landfill

AES Corp. is prepared to go ahead with the expansion of the landfill at its Somerset power plant, after a ruling Thursday by a state siting board.

The board endorsed a compromise plan worked out by AES and the Town of Somerset to settle a lawsuit over how the company was disposing of ash generated by the 675-megawatt coal-burning plant on Lake Road.

Robert S. Roberson, an attorney for the town, said AES had resisted a town demand for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to take over regulating and monitoring the landfill.

But AES Somerset President Kevin R. Pierce said that although the company thought the Public Service Commission would be a more appropriate regulator for the plant, AES is ready to go ahead and resume work on the second cell of the landfill next month.

The first cell, covering 84 acres, will run out of space by the end of the year. Pierce said AES stopped work on the second cell of nearly the same size because it wasn't sure how the litigation would turn out.

"The DEC will be part of the monitoring," Pierce said. "It wasn't necessarily a full win for us. . . . The plant was built under the lead of the PSC. We were very comfortable with that."

"They'd prefer the PSC because they don't do anything," Roberson said. "DEC has all the expertise."

The original landfill, which AES acquired in 1999 when it bought the power plant from New York State Electric & Gas Corp., had a one-layer liner. The town demanded a double liner for the new one to make it less likely that there would be leakage into ground water and into Lake Ontario.

AES thought the ammonia level in the ash was low enough that a single liner could be used. In 1999, the company had installed a new pollution control system, and Pierce said, "Our experience showed us it did not alter the amount of ammonia that was in the ash."

The eventual settlement called for a modified single liner system, which will be thicker and more expensive than the original single layer but cheaper than a two-layer liner. The modified single layer can be used as long as the ammonia level in the ash remains below the national safe drinking water standard of two parts per million.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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