ANTHONY TOWNSHIP, MONTOUR COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A power plant in central Pennsylvania is making big changes that will affect the environment.
As the Montour Power Plant transitions from coal to renewable energy, it’s also spending more than a million dollars trying to help preserve the natural space surrounding it.
The Montour preserve includes Lake Chillisquaque, built 1.5 miles north of the power plant in 1972 to supply water to the plant’s cooling towers. When Talen Energy committed to stop burning coal at its Montour steam electric station by the end of 2025, a local clean water organization stepped in to make sure the preserve wouldn’t get left behind.
“It’s the place where a lot of kids get introduced to the outdoors for the first time, myself included. Some of my earliest pictures are me sitting on a tackle box by the lake when the lake was first formed,” Montour Area Recreation Commission Director Bob Stoudt said.
The owners of the Montour Power Plant, Talen Energy, signed a settlement agreement with the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, to address reported pollution from an ash dump near the company’s power plant, promising to close the coal ash waste disposal site, donate their nature preserve and $1.2 million to future conservation efforts.
“We needed to find a realistic situation where we could have protections for the community, but also in the end we were able to save the preserve as well,” Middle Susquehanna Riverkeepers Executive Director John Zaktansky said.
Zaktansky says the deal includes testing the groundwater near the ash pit for at least 30 years to ensure that heavy metals and other contaminates do not leak into nearby streams, groundwater and drinking water.
It also ensures the Montour preserve will be protected for generations to come and will not be developed for commercial purpose. The 165-acre lake on the preserve is popular for fishing and boating. The surrounding land includes hiking trails, pavilions, play areas, a fossil pit, and nature center.
“Anytime you can keep nature as nature it’s always good. There’s a few different migrating bird species that come through here,” Todd Ribarchik, a fisherman who was visiting the preserve said.
Stoudt says he wants Montour Preserve to be protected forever. The next step is figuring out who will operate and maintain the dam, and how to pay for it. He’s confident they will get it done.
“It’s where kids get to know nature and enjoy and appreciate the environment, and then ideally they grew up into the next generation helps protect the place,” Stoudt said.
When the Montour plant eventually closes, Talen will donate $1 million for future upkeep of the preserve. Talen will also donate $200,000 to the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeepers Association for clean water programs.
A representative for Talen Energy gave Eyewitness News a statement on the settlement saying in part: “We feel it is important to take steps now to reaffirm our commitment to a responsible, compliant closure of our ash basins and ensure that the Montour preserve can continue to be available to the public, independent from the facility’s operations.”
The full statement can be read below:
“As part of Talen Energy’s November 2020 transformation announcement which includes the commitment to stop burning coal at its Montour Steam Electric Station by the end of 2025, we proactively engaged with key stakeholders to responsibly plan for this transition. The agreement with the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association reflects this collaboration. While Talen has no immediate plans to stop operations at the Montour generation facility, and aims to convert it to run on natural gas after 2025, we feel it is important to take steps now to reaffirm our commitment to a responsible, compliant closure of our ash basins and ensure that the Montour Preserve can continue to be available to the public, independent from the facility’s operations. For the near term, we expect the Montour Preserve to operate as it currently does, with our continued support.”
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