No immediate improvements planned at E.C. Gaston Plant

Assistant secretary of Fossil Energy Mike Smith’s visit to the Power Systems Development Facility in Wilsonville comes only a few weeks after Alabama Power, owned by Southern Company, announced it would spend $1.5 billion through 2010 to improve pollution-control standards at its facilities throughout state.

The company has begun improvements at two Birmingham area plants soon, officials said.

The improvments are designed to reduce the plants’ emissions of nitrogen oxide, also known as NOX, a component of ground-level ozone.

No immediate improvements are scheduled at the E.C. Gaston Plant, located next to the Power Systems Developmental Facility in Wilsonville.

However, there will be pollution control changes on a smaller scale, an Alabama Power official said.

NOX reduction equipment was installed at the Gorgas Plant in Walker County and will be installed at the Miller Plant in Jefferson County.

The reduction equipment is known as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). Officials said the technology transforms NOX into harmless nitrogen and water.

Both Jefferson and Shelby counties are non-attainment areas due to high levels of ozone, according to the federal air quality standards.

Non-attainment status restricts economic development with certain industrial restrictions for new businesses locating in the area.

Michael Snzajderman, an Alabama Power spokersperson, said although no major improvements are scheduled for the E.C. Gaston Plant now, the company will see improvements in the future.

The E.C. Gaston Plant was labeled in April as one of the worst polluters in the nation by the U.S. Public Interest Group, a national watchdog group.

Alabama Power disputes the label but all out announced several improvements in recent months aimed at curbing ozone pollution.

&uot;At this time, we have no plan to install SCRs at Gaston, but we are looking at installing a different system that would boost the effectiveness of the low-NOX burners that were installed on all of Gaston’s five units during the 1990s,&uot; Snzajderman said.

&uot;We are not installing SCRs at Gaston because the state plan to reduce ozone calls for us to install SCRs at Miller and Gorgas (plants).&uot;

He said officials from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management have determined that installing SCRs at Miller and Gorgas will have the most significant impact on Birmingham area air quality.

Miller and Gorgas are receiving the technology first,

he said, because the wind generally blows the pollution from the west to east.

&uot;It’s Miller and Gorgas that blow toward Birmingham. So that’s where we’re putting in SCRs, even though Gorgas, in Walker County, is technically outside the Birmingham non-attainment zone,&uot; he said.

&uot;We’re putting the technology where it’s going to have the most bang for the buck as far as improving air quality in the Birmingham area.&uot;