City accepts Erie Coke’s remaining wastewater

State regulators asked city to take wastewater, city solicitor says

The city of Erie and Erie Coke Corp. have reached a deal over the plant’s wastewater, the issue that proved fatal for the ailing company in December.

The city agreed in late December to accept limited amounts of wastewater from Erie Coke in order to safely remove the remaining water from the plant at the foot of East Avenue, said Ed Betza, the city’s solicitor.

The wastewater that is still on site has high concentrations of ammonia, Betza said. The chemical had been the source of many of the plant’s wastewater problems and was one of the reasons Erie Coke was cut off from the city’s sanitary sewer system in mid-December.

The city agreed to handle the plant’s remaining wastewater after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection raised concerns about the dangers of trucking water with high ammonia concentrations offsite, Betza said.

“They asked the city to accept the wastewater into its system,” he said.

The removal of the plant’s remaining wastewater will take about one month, he said. The DEP reported in late December that Erie Coke was storing about 1.6 million gallons of wastewater at the plant.

Erie Coke agreed to pay the costs associated with the wastewater treatment, Betza said.

After years of violations, the city in December ordered Erie Coke to stop sending wastewater through the city’s sanitary sewer system. The violations were related to concentrations of naphthalene and ammonia that exceeded Erie Coke’s permit limits.

Erie Coke was required to pretreat its wastewater before discharging it into the city’s sewer system. The Erie Wastewater Treatment Facility treats water that travels through the city’s sanitary system, such as the wastewater from Erie Coke, before releasing the water into Lake Erie.

The city had twice reached consent orders with Erie Coke that required the company to pay a total of $300,000 in civil penalties for mishandling wastewater between December 2017 and June. The city used that money to offset the costs of treating the coke plant’s wastewater.

The Erie Times-News reported previously that the city cut off Erie Coke after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates municipal wastewater with DEP involvement, indicated it was closely watching the city’s response to Erie Coke’s continued violations.

Erie Coke initially blamed the shutoff, and the cost of removing the plant’s wastewater, for its decision to close on Dec. 19.

But former Erie Coke Environmental Director Ed Nesselbeck later said that the company had been unable to provide a date by which it could bring its onsite wastewater treatment system into compliance with the city’s requirements.

Nesselbeck told the Erie Times-News last week that he is no longer employed at Erie Coke.

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