Delaware Electric Cooperative Inc.’s back-up generator was emitting five times more ammonia than its permit allows, state environmental officials say.
Officials with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control first issued a violation notice in July when the company failed to properly test a diesel-fired internal combustion engine at its Greenwood location.
When an air emissions test was conducted in June, experts found the co-op’s emissions were, on average, five times the amount allowed. The permit limit for ammonia emissions is 0.1 pounds per hour or 0.5 pounds per megawatt hour. The test found average emissions of about 0.57 pounds per hour and 1.31 pounds per megawatt hour.
DNREC requires the co-op to conduct inspections and maintenance to bring the generator back into compliance within 30 days of the violation notice. A report on those findings is due to the department within 45 days, the notice states.
No fines are issued with a notice of violation.
“The excess ammonia violation came from our backup generator we have on site here at Delaware Electric Cooperative's headquarters, which keeps us running if we lose power,” said co-op spokesman Jeremy Tucker. “We contacted Alban, the company which manages and services the generator, and they have made several changes, including realigning valves and replacing the turbocharger, which helps the generator run more efficiently. They seem fairly confident the changes will fix the problem and allow the generator to once again be compliant with state guidelines.”
Tucker said company officials will meet with Alban again this week, and additional emissions tests are expected to take place in November.
Ammonia, which naturally occurs in air, soil and water, can pose health risks when excess amounts are inhaled. Short-term exposure to high levels of ammonia can cause irritation and burns in the mouth, lungs and eyes, while chronic exposure can increase the risk of respiratory problems and impair lung function, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Excess ammonia emissions can have an adverse affect on the environment by contributing to smog formation and eutrophication of surface waters, DNREC stated.