U.Va., DEQ share
same goal an efficient, effective heating plant
by Rebecca Arrington
central heating plant coal stack and four silos (background)
border University and Jefferson Park avenues.
By Lee Graves
from U.Va. and the Department of Environmental Quality met in
Harrisonburg last week to clear the air over the Universitys
request to burn more coal in its main heating plant.
all accounts, the process appears to be on a new footing.
think the main thing is the University desires to move forward
with this, that it always planned to comply with the air pollution
regulations and is going to go a step further and do additional
work that may not be required by the
said Cheryl Gomez, U.Va.s director of utilities.
Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer,
said, We take our relationship with DEQ seriously, and we
intend to comply with all state regulations. We simply will not
officials also see progress.
pretty pleased with the meeting we had with the University. It
appears were on the same page in wanting to do the right
thing, said Mike Kiss, senior environmental engineer with
the Harrisonburg office. Obviously the University has heating
needs, and we want to address them.
University has been seeking to modify its permit to burn more
fuel because the plant uses nearly all that is allowed under the
heating plant met fuel usage limits for 2001 by improved plant
efficiency and a milder than normal winter, said Ray Kneuper,
heating plants manager.
DEQ and University officials agree that while the University is
exempt from some state regulations, it will conduct studies and
install controls as if it were not exempt.
by Rebecca Arrington
Seymour, a shift operations supervisor at U.Va.s central
heating plant, demonstrates the controls on one
of the facilitys five boilers, which he and other staff
members maintain and operate around the clock.
believe there has been an honest difference in interpretation
of the regulations, Sandridge said.
permit application also generated some recent heat in the community.
Charlottesville City Councilman Kevin Lynch circulated an e-mail
raising concerns about the potential adverse effects of
operating a large coal-burning facility in an urban area.
Several of the emission components have been linked to significant
health risks, he wrote.
concern came as the University was in protracted discussions with
DEQ. The permit process, initiated in 1996, had gone through various
twists and turns, including a reapplication last fall and a request
last month for an extension until May to revise the request.
denied the extension.
granting of additional extensions to the project that commenced
in 1996 may be viewed as DEQs tacit approval of further
delays, said R. Bradley Chewning, valley regional director,
in a March 19 letter.
by Elizabeth Wooding
Gomez, U.Va.s director of utilities.
days of receiving the notice, four University officials were in
Harrisonburg to assure DEQ of its commitment to working together.
believe DEQ and the University want the same thing an efficient
and effective plant that is compliant with all state and federal
regulations, Sandridge said.
University originally had sought permission to burn an additional
5,800 tons of coal a year. Kiss said that amount might be modified
as U.Va. gathers information.
University has three major points to address: analyzing the best
available technology to control emissions given the plants
setup; providing a model of how emissions will affect the community;
and providing for public participation.
Gomez said a consultant will be hired to help with the first two.
conceivable that there are current control technologies available
that could reduce our emissions below the point we have now. So
well be taking a look at all of those options.
more details are in place, officials will seek comments from the
We need to do some studies to see where were heading,
theres no timetable set for the analysis and the modeling,
University and DEQ officials are pleased at the recent progress.
going to do the studies that we need to do, evaluate the environmental
impact and put the controls that we need to on the plant,
does the main heating plant work?
plant, designed and built in the 1950s, has five boilers
to generate steam. High-grade coal, the main fuel source,
is delivered in railway cars and moved through pneumatic
pipes to four storage silos. When ready for burning, the
coal is again moved via pipes and conveyors to the boilers.
Emissions are released through a single 160-foot smokestack.
other fuels are burned at the plant?
addition to coal, the plant burns No. 6 fuel oil and natural
gas. In 2001, it burned 25,390 tons of coal, 53,267 gallons
of oil and 167.3 million standard cubic feet of gas. The
total cost for fuel last fiscal year was $2.8 million.
use coal, and why not have several heating plants?
is less expensive than natural gas. To produce the same
amount of heat, natural gas costs more than three times
as much as coal. Using mostly coal saves the University
about $4 million annually, said Ray Kneuper, heating plants
central plant also is the most efficient way to deliver
steam around Grounds, said Gomez.
did the University seek a new permit?
the plant operates under limits set when the current permit
was negotiated with DEQ more than 10 years ago, Kneuper
said. More than 95 percent of the allowed amounts are burned,
and several times in recent years the plant has exceeded
its annual limits.
an agreement with DEQ requires the University to obtain
a new permit.
What pollutants does the plant produce?
pollutants are discharged, three of which are considered
major regulated pollutants nitrogen oxides, sulfur
dioxide and particles smaller than 10 micrometers. In general,
these pollutants can contribute to smog, acid rain and respiratory
much is being produced?
2001, the boiler operation produced 430 tons of sulfur dioxide,
219 tons of nitrogen dioxide and 15 tons of particles with
diameters of 10 micrometers or less, according to Vaughn
C. Kowahl, U.Va.s environmental program specialist.
Are those amounts within regulations?
said emissions limits are determined by the amount of sulfur
and ash in the coal it burns. The current permit says the
sulfur content cant exceed 1.12 percent by weight,
and ash content cant exceed 6.8 percent. Over the
last four years, U.Va.s coal has averaged 0.88 percent
sulfur and 4.5 percent ash by weight, he said.
emission control measures are in place?
of the boilers have devices to reduce particles. Two have
baghouses metal houses with hundreds
of long bags. Emissions from the boilers go through these
bags to filter out smoke and particles, much like the bag
in a vacuum cleaner filters air as it passes through. The
resulting ash is stored in a silo until trucked from the
other boilers have cyclones, which are internal
devices that use a whirling action to separate out the larger
a computerized emissions system continuously monitors the
opacity of emissions and the level of nitrogen oxides coming
out of the smokestack.
would it cost to significantly upgrade the plant to reduce
will be determined by the analysis of best available control
technology. Any estimates would be premature. Beyond the
costs of equipment and operation, however, the University
will have to address the limited space at the plant.