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A Summary of the Operating History
of the Harrisburg Incinerator

(also known as the Harrisburg Waste-to-Energy Facility or The Harrisburg Steam Generating Facility)

[1972-1991 information provided by Eric Epstein as culled from the public documents made available for inspection by the PA Department of Environmental Resources (DER)'s Office of Public Reviews on August 30, 1991. Additional information provided by members of the Coalition Against the Incinerator.]

1969
December 22 - construction began

1972
July 13 - DER issues Permit No. 100758 to the City of Harrisburg (the "City") in order to operate the incinerator.

1973
May 13 - DER issues Permit No. 100759 to the City for the solid waste disposal and/or processing facility named the Harrisburg Incinerator Residue Disposal Area, otherwise known as Site A. (According to the approved plan of operations for Site A, operation is limited to the deposit of residue up to a final contour elevation of 354 feet.)

1974
March 11 - DER notifies the City that Site A is filled beyond capacity. DER instructs the City of develop a new residue disposal area (Site B) by August, 1974.

August - The City fails to develop Site B.

1975
October - The City begins to use Site A as a storage area for unburned flood debris despite the fact that such use violates the approved plan of operations.

October 27 - Mayor Harold Swenson agrees in writing to submit a plan to DER within 30 days which would: (1) propose corrections for the existing violation (s); (2) identify a new residue disposal area (Site B).

November 27 - The City fails to submit the plan.

1976
May 17 - DER issues an order to the City revoking Permit No. 100759. (This is the permit for Site A.) DER orders the City to: (1) utilize an alternate approved site (Site B) for the disposal of residue beginning no later than 45 days from receipt of the order; (2) stop depositing residue on Site A; and (3) terminate operation of Site A in accordance with DER regulations.

1977
February 14 - The Environmental Hearing Board ("EHB") approves Consent Adjudication between DER and the City in which both parties agree to a schedule for correcting the violation caused by the City having filled Site A beyond the contour elevation of 354 feet. The City therein agrees to cease using Site A for the deposit of refuse by December 1, 1977, and to complete revegetation of the Site by June 1, 1978.

1978
September 12 - DER issues Permit No. 100992 to the City for Site B.

1979
March 13 - EHB approves Amended Consent Adjudication between DER and the City which acknowledges that the City has applied for and received a permit for Site B and which commits the City to having Site B ready for the acceptance of residue by May 15, 1979. Also, the City agrees to remove excess residue from Site A and to undertake stabilization and revegetation of the Site by May 15, 1980.

1980
January 10 - The Office of Attorney General files an Equity Complaint with the Commonwealth Court seeking an injunction against the City for allegedly violating the terms of the Amended Consent Adjudication by, inter alia: (1) continuing to deposit incinerator residue at Site A; and (2) failing to have Site B ready for the acceptance of residue.

January 10 - Commonwealth Court approves Consent Decree between DER and the City whereby the City agrees: (1) to have Site B constructed and ready for acceptance of residue by August 31, 1980; (2) to cease disposing of residue at Site A upon completion of Site B, or - in the event that Site B is not timely constructed - to cease disposing of residue at Site A by August 31, 1980; (3) to remove excess residue from Site A and to either (a) stabilize and revegetate the site or (b) cover it with asphalt and use it as a processing and staging area by May 1, 1981.

1981
June 30 - DER renews the City's Air Quality Permit for the incinerator (Permit No. 22-310-007).

1982
January 21 - The City begins to violate the provisions of Permit No. 100992 (i.e., permit for Site B) by illegally operating Site B as a storage area for unincineratored solid waste.

December 16 - DER issues a Notice of Violation to the City re: its unpermitted use of Site B as a storage area for unincinerated refuse.

December 22 - At a meeting held with DER at its Harrisburg Regional Office, the City agrees to remove the unincinerated refuse from Site B.

1983
January 11 - The City informs DER by letter that all unincinerated refuse will be removed from Site B by March 7, 1983.

January 27 - A DER investigation of Site B reveals that the city continues to deposit new loads of unincinerated municipal refuse at Site B.

May 13 - DER issues an Order to the City requiring it to: (1) cease and desist from depositing new unincinerated solid waste at Site B; (2) remove all unincinerated refuse from Site B on or before May 27, 1983.

1984
Mayor Stephen R. Reed ordered Incinerator to begin operating under new section of City's government called the Department of Incineration and Steam Generation; Many improvements on the facility were completed; Operation of a new steam transmission line began on May 7, 1984 [This according to City of Harrisburg Brochure: "Meeting the Challenges of City and Nation." date unknown.]

1985
January 1 - DER issues Air Quality Permit No. 22-301-052 to the Harrisburg Steam Generating Facility. This permit allows the City to burn sewage sludge in the incinerator.

January 25 - A DER inspection reveals that the City is processing sewage sludge in violation of the modification to Solid Waste Permit No. 100758, dated November 21, 1984. (I have not located a copy of DER's 1984 modification to the 1972 permit for the incinerator.)

July 3 - DER holds a meeting at its Harrisburg Regional Office with the City re: the operating history of the incinerator and the status of the residue disposal sites vis--vis compliance with their respective permits.

July 10 - DER writes to the City in order to confirm the terms of the July 3rd meeting. DER states: "The existing condition of residue disposal Sites A and B-1 causes concern for their potential impact on human health and the environment."1 (Emphasis added.) The City agrees to: (1) remove the unincinerated refuse from Site B-1 by September 1, 1985; (2) grade Site B-1 to meet design specifications by September 9, 1985; (3) remove excess residue and grade Site A to meet approved design specifications by October 31, 1985; (4) perform a hazardous waste determination for residues disposed at Sites A and B-1; and (5) reinstitute groundwater monitoring no later than July 31, 1985.

1 The reference to Site B-1 is curious. Evidently, DER divided Site B into 3 components (B-1, B-2 and B-3) when it issued Permit No. 100992 to the City.

July 24 - A DER inspection reveals that the City burned sewage sludge at a rate exceeding the permissible level established in Air Quality Operating Permit No. 22-301-052.

July 30 - As a result of the violations uncovered during inspections on January 25, 1985, and July 24, 1985, DER suspends the City's permit to accept and burn six separate waste streams. (The record does not dispose the applicable permit numbers.)

August 5 - DER reinstates the City's above-mentioned permits pending a reevaluation of the on-site conditions at the incinerator scheduled for September 30, 1985.

1986
February 4 - Swatara Township writes to DER concerning the severity of rodent infestation at the incinerator as a result of the storage of incinerated refuse.

November 4 - DER sends a Notice of Violation to the City re: the City's failure to submit groundwater monitoring reports for the third quarter of 1986.

December 1 - DER issues Permit No. 22-301-052 to the City for municipal waste incinerator units 1 and 2.

December 17 - The City submits a Phase I Permit Application for the disposal of solid waste at Site B-2.

December 23 - The City submits a Phase I Permit Application for the disposal of ash in the area identified as Site B-1.

1987

July 21 - The City submits a Phase II Permit Application for the disposal of ash in the area identified as Site B-2.

1988

April 21 - DER performs a stack test on incinerator unit no. 2 and determines that the particulate emissions exceed allowable limits.

June 27 - As the result of an inspection conducted on May 16, 1988, DER issues a Notice of Violation to the City re: its failure to close Site A and its failure to maintain the leachate collection system for Site A.

June 27 - As the result of an inspection conducted on May 16, 1988, DER issues a Notice of Violation to the City re: (1) the filling of Site B-1 beyond its permitted capacity; (2) the failure to maintain Site B-1 in such a manner as to collect the leachate for treatment; and (3) the failure to maintain a diversion channel around the site.

July 18 - DER holds a meeting with the City in order to discuss the two Notices of Violation issued on June 27th. The City agrees to submit a closure plan for both sites within 30 days of the date of the meeting.

August 11 - Incinerator ash escapes and falls upon private property in Harrisburg and Steelton. The City pleads guilty to a summary criminal charge filed as a result of this violation.

August 17 - Incinerator ash again escapes and falls upon private property in Harrisburg and Steelton. The City again pleads guilty to a summary criminal charge filed as a result of this violation.

August 17 - The City submits a closure plan for both sites which calls for closure elevations that exceed the originally permitted levels. ("The reality and economics of the situation are such that it will be virtually impossible to remove all the ash from both sites to the originally permitted levels."

August 25 - DER performs a stack test on incinerator unit no. 1 and determines that the particulate emissions exceed allowable limits.

August 29 - DER issues an Order to the City requiring the following: (1) effective immediately, no solid waste shall be disposed at Site A; (2) no solid waste shall be disposed at Site B-1 after October 28, 1988; and (3) revised closure plans, with implementation schedules, must be submitted by September 28, 1988, and the plans must comply with the respective permits and all DER regulations.

August 31 - Incinerator ash again escapes and falls upon private property in Harrisburg and Steelton. The City again pleads guilty to a summary criminal charge filed as a result of this violation.

September 12 - Incinerator ash again escapes and falls upon private property in Harrisburg and Steelton. The City again pleads guilty to a summary criminal charge filed as a result of this violation.

September 20 - DER's Bureau of Air Quality Control notifies the City of various violations of the Air Pollution Control Act and gives the City 30 days to submit an abatement plan.

September 26 - DER's Bureau of Air Quality Control notifies the City of the conditions that must be met prior to renewing operating Permit No. 22-301-052. (This permit allows the City to burn sewage sludge in the incinerator.)

September 28 - The City submits a revised closure plan for Site B-1 and an application for a major permit modification in order to construct and operate Site B-2. (Supposedly, the major permit modification is needed in order to remove solid waste from Site B-1 and dispose of it at Site B-2.)

September 29 - The City files a Notice of Appeal with EHB re: DER's August 29, 1988, Order.

October 7 - DER's Bureau of Air Quality Control issues a Notice of Violation to the City as a result of emission testing conducted on August 25, 1988.

October 7 - Incinerator ash again escapes and falls upon private property in Harrisburg and Steelton. The City again pleads guilty to a summary criminal charge filed as a result of this violation.

October 11 - The City submits a closure plan for Site A.

October 19 - DER observes visible emissions in excess of allowable limits. The City pleads guilty to a summary criminal charge as a result of this violation.

October 26 - DER again observes visible emissions in excess of allowable limits. The City again pleads guilty to a summary criminal charge filed as a result of this violation.

November 9 - DER performs stack tests on units 1 and 2 and determines that particulate levels for both units exceed allowable limits.

November 16 - DER again observes visible emissions in excess of allowable limits. The City again pleads guilty to a summary criminal charge filed as a result of this violation.

December 7 - DER's Bureau of Air Quality Control revokes Permit No. 22-301-052, issued to the City on December 1, 1986.

December 20 - A Consent Order and Agreement is executed between the City and DER which, inter alia, results in the following: (1) The City agrees to correct any deficiencies in the closure plans for Sites A and B-1 within the time frame established by DER; (2) the city agrees to commence implementation of DER's approved and/or modified closure plan for Site A within 45 days of written approval, or by March 15, 1989, whichever is later; (3) the closure of Site A shall be completed within 90 days of the date of commencement; (4) Solid Water Permit No. 100992 is amended to preclude the disposal of solid waste at Site B-1 after June 15, 1989; (5) the City shall initiate the implementation of the closure plan for Site B-1 on or before July 15, 1989; and (6) the City agrees to pay a $25,000 civil penalty for the violations uncovered by DER during its inspection on May 16, 1988.

1989
March 17 - As a result of repeated violations of air pollution regulations throughout the months of August, September, October and November, 1988, DER issues an Order to the City requiring: (1) the submission of a plan for the rehabilitation, upgrading, repairing, improving and/or replacing of the air pollution control equipment at the incinerator within 60 days of the order; (2) implementation of the plan within 30 days of DER's approval; (3) full implementation of the plan within 180 days of DER's approval; (4) a demonstration that the incinerator complies with all relevant laws within 270 days of DER's approval; and (5) the cessation of all operations in the event that the City cannot demonstrate compliance within 270 days of DER's approval.

June 15 - DER's Bureau of Litigation refuses to grant the City's request to modify the 1988 Consent Order and Agreement so as to: (The City's request was evidently made by letter on June 1, 1989.)

June 15 - The City begins to violate the December 20, 1988, Consent Order and Agreement by depositing ash at site B-1. The violations continue until October 1, 1989.

June 16 - Statement of Mark Embeck, DER - Water Pollution Biologist, re his observation of the City's violation of DER's Order by dumping ash at Site B-1.

June 19 - Statement of Anthony Rathfon, DER - Solid Waste Specialist, re his observation of the City's violation of DER's Order by dumping ash at Site B-1.

June 21 - Statement of Anthony Rathfon, DER - Solid Waste Specialist, re his observation of the City's violation of DER's Order by dumping ash at Site B-1.

June 22 - Statement of Anthony Rathfon, DER - Solid Waste Specialist, re his observation of the City's violation of DER's Order by dumping ash at Site B-1.

June 23 - Statement of Anthony Rathfon, DER - Solid Waste Specialist, re his observation of the City's violation of DER's Order by dumping ash at Site B-1. 2

2.These "statements are not repetitious. They represent the personal observation of five separate instances of dumping.

August 11 - DER issues the City a minor modification to Permit No. 100922 for Site B in order to allow the construction and operation of a temporary ash storage area.

October 1 - The City begins to utilize the temporary ash storage area.

October 4 - The City submits a plan for recycling and waste reduction to DER.

October 12 - DER indicates that it has "no adverse comments at this time" to the City's plan for recycling and waste reduction.

October 23 - The City submits revised closure plans to DER re closure of sites A and B-1.

1990
January 29 - DER issues a modification to Permit No. 100992 in order to allow the construction and operation of site B-2.

January 30 - DER issues approval of the City's revised closure plans for site A and B-1.

February 28 - The City files a Notice of Appeal with EHB charging that some of the conditions included by DER in its modification to Permit No. 100992 are unfair, unreasonable, burdensome, etc.

February 28 - The City files a Notice of Appeal with EHB charging that some of the conditions included by DER in its approval of the City's revised closure plans for sites A and B-1 are unreasonable, unfair, etc.

April 23 - The City and DER execute a letter agreement in which the City acknowledges that the incinerator has been "in continuous violation of 25 Pa. Code 123.12 [DER regulation concerning the limits for particulate emissions] throughout the period... April 21, 1988, to May 25, 1990." Furthermore, the City conceded that the incinerator has not been "operated in a manner... consistent with good operating practices" and agrees to pay a civil penalty of $140,000 in settlement of all claims under the Air Pollution Control Act.

May 23 - By letter to DER, the City proposed a revised schedule for the construction of Site B-2, the closure of sites A and B-1, and the permanent disposal of ash deposited in the temporary ash storage area.

May 28 - DER's Office of Chief Counsel writes to counsel for the City in order to "memorialize" a settlement of an EHB appeal re the City's alleged violations of the December 20, 1988 Consent Order and Agreement. The City agrees to:

August 29 - The City and DER execute an amendment to the December 20, 1988, Consent Order and Agreement in which revised schedules are agreed to concerning construction of Site B-2, the closure of Sites A and B-1, and the permanent disposal of ash deposited in temporary ash storage area. The City agrees to pay $5,000 civil penalty for its delay.

September 12 - Nassaux - Hemsley, Inc. - Consultants, writes to DER for clarification re the possibility of refurbishing and/or increasing the processing capacity of the incinerator.

September 17 - EHB orders that the docket be closed and discontinued on the City's appeal from DER's June 15, 1989, denial of the City's request to continue to deposit incinerator ash at site B-1 after the agreed upon deadline.

October 19 - Howard Wein, Esquire, counsel to City of Harrisburg, writes to DER's Bureau of Waste Management re DER's characterization of the City's ash as "hazardous waste" under state law.

November 16 - Interoffice memo from John Lukens, Director - Department of Incineration and Steam Generation, to Mayor Reed re the October, 1990, production report for electricity and steam.

1991
January 31 - Interoffice memo from Director Lukens to Mayor Reed re December, 1990, production report for electricity and steam.

February 21 - Interoffice memo from Director Lukens to Mayor Reed re January, 1991, production report for electricity and steam.

March 15 - Interoffice memo from Director Lukens to Mayor Reed re February, 1991, production report for electricity and steam.

April 5 - DER provides notice to James Close of the City's Steam Generating Plant that a preliminary review of the 1990 4th quarter report for the resource recovery facility indicates that the City is impermissibly receiving and disposing of municipal waste from municipalities located in the Counties of Lancaster and York. According to DER's notice, the approved solid waste management plans for Lancaster and York do not designate the City's facility as the processing/disposal site for the municipalities in question. DER asks the City for an explanation. (I was not able to locate a written explanation amongst DER's public documents.)

July 1 - Director Lukens writes to DER in order to alert the Department that the City may not be able to meet the deadline for closure of Site B-1, as established in the August 29, 1990, amendment to the Consent Order and Agreement, as a result of certain problems uncovered by the City's contractor.

1992
October - Incinerator sold to Harrisburg Authority for $41.6 million; Eric Epstein (TMI Alert) appealed sale, blaming City officials for avoiding fixing Incinerator's environmental problems [Feeley, Mike. "Plant Sale Generates a Lawsuit: Environmental Racism Alleged;" The Patriot-News; 1992.]

1997
February - U.S. EPA states that the incinerator was "probably the highest emitter of dioxin in the country that we know of for municipal incinerators" [Lenton, Garry. "Experts Disagree on Health Hazards of Incinerator." The Patriot-News 22 Feb. 1997: A1, Back Page.]

August - City planned to spend about $100 million to replace old incinerator parts with new equipment by 2000 [Farley, Robert. "Incinerator's Neighbors Wary of Emissions -- Dioxin's Health Effects Questioned." The Patriot-News 18 Aug. 1997: B1.]

1999
March - Mayor Reed said his city was "ready, willing, and able" to accept 1,100 tons a day of New York City's municipal solid waste [see Harrisburg Give Us Trash: Pennsylvania City's mayor says his facilities could start taking all of Staten Island's garbage immediately.]

2000
October - Dr. Barry Commoner releases study showing that the Harrisburg incinerator is the largest single contributor to dioxin contamination in the northern Arctic.

October 31 - City Council approved a $25.5 million bond to refinance the Harrisburg Authority's debt and to pay for equipment for the transfer station, and an engineering study in which Barlow Group will study retrofitting the incinerator with their own boiler technology.

November 22 - EPA rejected Harrisburg's plan to reduce the amount of waste intake with a computer software system. They have now ordered the plant closed by December 19, 2000. The Authority plans to fight the decision.

December 18 - Incinerator shuts down just before EPA's deadline.

2001
January 9 - PA DEP and the City of Harrisburg sign a Consent Order and Agreement allowing the incinerator to operate in a "derated" capacity, so that they can burn no more than 500 tons per day (they were already burning an average of 460 tons per day in 2000 even though they were designed and permitted to burn over 600 tons per day). The Harrisburg Authority was stockpiling trash between December 18th and January 9th, rather than transferring it to the 3 area landfills which they have contracts with (and which would be cheaper than burning it).

January 13 - Incinerator starts back up at midnight. Coalition Against the Incinerator holds a candlelight vigil beforehand.

May - Dioxin testing results: Unit 1 averaged 1775, Unit 2 averaged 1141 (the limit in the deal between EPA, DEP and the City was 1500). Unit 1 scheduled to have two more tests.

September 25 - PA Department of Environmental Protection holds a public hearing on the Harrisburg Authority's plan to derate the incinerator to a lower capacity. This refers to the already-completed modifications that the city did at the beginning of the year, which they were supposed to do after writing a plan and getting approval from DEP. *DEP extended the comment deadline to 12/12/2002.

October - Dioxin testing results: Unit 1 scored 2000.

October 29 - The city voluntarily closes Unit 1. Unit 1 is scheduled to install a water spray system and to install a carbon injector in the ESP.

December - Dioxin testing results: The additional equipment was installed and Unit 1 was retested with these configurations:

December 20 - DEP approved the restart of Unit 1.

2003
June 18 - The incinerator closes.

September 10 - DEP approves an air pollution permit for an 800 tpd incinerator to be built on the same spot, using the same stack. DEP considers it only a minor modification to the existing permit.

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