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DEQ Approves Mirant Tests

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced Wednesday they have approved a proposal by Mirant's Potomac River Generating Station to test a new emissions reduction technology beginning Friday, Nov. 11. The tests will be conducted through Nov. 18.

By injecting a mineral known as trona into the gas exhaust of one boiler Mirant hopes to neutralize emission of sulfur dioxide.

But the test is not without problems.

"The process also has the potential to increase particulate pollution. That's why we want to closely monitor the procedure so as not to increase another type of pollution," said Bill Hayden, spokesperson, DEQ Public Affairs.

Elizabeth Chimento, one of the initial leaders in attempting to get the North Old Town Alexandria power generating plant closed, said, "I'm somewhat skeptical because the City didn't have a chance to weigh-in before DEQ approved this test. There are still pieces to this puzzle that have not been revealed."

DEQ gave the go-ahead only after requiring Mirant to take steps to ensure the accuracy of its procedures and to protect people and the environment in the area of the plant, according to Hayden. Staff from their Northern Virginia Regional Office arrived at the plant on Wednesday and will remain there to observe the testing.

City staff from the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services will also be on-site periodically throughout the test period, according to William Skrabak, division chief, Environmental Quality, T&ES. "We are aware of the testing and will be submitting comments to DEQ," Skrabak said.

"The whole point here is to see if their tests work or fail. DEQ has stated to us and publicly that they support Alexandria's concerns in this whole matter," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.

Although a call was placed to Steven L. Arabia, director, External Affairs, Mirant Mid-Atlantic, to get Mirant's reaction to DEQ's approval of the tests, it was not returned by press time.