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Votes

Mirant To Start Shut Down

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday afternoon negotiations between Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Mirant Potomac River Generating Plant executives broke down. As a result Mirant informed DEQ they would close down the plant as of midnight Aug. 24 "for an undetermined length of time," according to Bill Hayden, spokesperson for DEQ.

"They could not find a solution that would meet our requirements to improve air quality and decided to close the plant until further notice," Hayden said. DEQ had given Mirant until 2 p.m. to submit proposals to deal with the "downwash" situation impacting high rise buildings near the plant's north Old Town Alexandria location.

Mirant had stated in a previous news release that if no solution could be negotiated at Wednesday's meeting with DEQ they would close down the plant. That meeting was held via conference call between the two parties throughout the afternoon with no agreement being reached.

Steven L. Arabia, director, External Affairs for Mirant, verified that the plant "will be off-line by midnight. It takes several hours to ramp down. But since we have brought the capacity down by 65 percent already, it will take place faster than normal."

He added, "We will continue to work diligently toward a permanent fix to the downwash issue. We'll keep the plant shut down until we get an appropriate solution or until we are ordered to restart it by an appropriate authority." The latter possibility was made in reference to those that oversee the electric grid stretching from the Mid-Atlantic Region to Chicago of which the Potomac River plant is a part, according to Arabia.

"All our employees will continue to report for work as usual to maintain the equipment and perform other duties. This equipment must be maintained even if not in use," he said. "When it is restarted, if the units are cold, it will take at least a day and a half to bring it back on line."

City officials held a closed door strategy session Wednesday morning, according to Steve Mason, Alexandria's public information officer. There was to have been a press conference Thursday afternoon near the Mirant plant. However, that was canceled just prior to 5 p.m. Wednesday. No reason was given.

<1b>— Chuck Hagee/Gazette