As Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. prepares to bring a fourth Pasadena coal-burning power plant on-line, the utility is wrestling with how to dispose of the thousands of tons of fly ash generated each year.
Monika S. Bay, BG & E supervisor for land use management, said the utility hopes to convert up to 60 percent of the 470,000 tons of fly ash -- a non-hazardous by-product -- produced by the four coal-fired generators into "coarse aggregate," a pebble-like material used in concrete.
Bay said the utility would contract another firm to build, operate and maintain the aggregate manufacturing plant at the utility's Brandon Shores facility. A contract could be negotiated by mid-December, but Bay declined to release further details.
The remainder of the fly ash will be dumped at two sites off Fort Smallwood Road, Bay said. For the past eight years, BG & E has used fly ash to grade and contour Brandon Woods, a 200-acre office and light industrial park.
The utility also has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to dump on an adjacent 266-acre site, Chestnut Hill Farms, beginning in fall 1992. BG & E needs a permit from the Army Corps because the company has proposed filling in nine acres of non-tidal wetlands on the site.
Chestnut Hill Farms contains more than 30 acres of wetlands, Bay said.
But, working to affect the wetlands as little as possible, BG & E has scaled back plans to dump 4 million tons of fly ash there to 2 million tons, she said.
Bay described the nine acres as "low-quality wetlands," mostly man-made and of little value. State and federal regulations are aimed at preserving non-tidals wetland as natural filters of pollutants headed for the Chesapeake Bay and as natural wildlife habitats.
Bay said the utility is trying to balance preservation of the wetlands with its need to dispose of the ash.
The 470,000 tons of fly ash produced annually is enough for one acre 300 feet high, Bay said at the seventh annual meeting Tuesday night between BG & E executives and community leaders.
Mary Rosso, a Silver Sands resident and president of the Maryland Waste Coalition, said the utility's plan to fill the wetlands caught her by surprise. She had not heard of the proposal until the Army Corps issued a public notice this week.
Rosso said she plans to request a public hearing before the Army Corps issues a permit.
Engineers have begun testing and tuning the new coal-burning generator, which should begin operating by next May 31, said John Metzger, a BG & E spokesman.
Before construction is completed, high-pressure steam will be sent through the system to ensure that the boiler and piping are free of rust and debris. Before the steam is released into the atmosphere, it is channeled into four tanks, which both muffle the sound of the cleaning operation and collect solid waste particles.
The "steam blow" is scheduled to begin Dec. 14 and take up to three weeks. The cleaning process will take place Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.
to 6 p.m., excluding holidays.