2010-03-18 / General Stories

LCAP Discusses Mine and Power Plant

An audience of Luminant Community Advisory Panel members and facility neighbors guaranteed a variety of questions when the group met at the Luminant Three Oaks Mine offices in February. Updates on the power plants and mine led to discussion about water, the weather, and the value of coal.

Sandow Power Plant Unit 4 had just begun a long outage during which additional pollution control equipment is being installed. Startup of the new Sandow Unit 5 went more quickly than expected for circulating fluidized bed technology. The unit has operated at full rates but also had the ups and downs typical of new mechanical equipment. An outage was taken to address noise issues.

Luminant personnel used large aerial maps to show attendees where two draglines are currently operating, in Areas A and B. The group heard that “rain is a miner’s worst enemy.” Ruts in the gravel and clay roads make hauling coal a challenge.

A variety of questions were asked about water. Luminant is using 10 wells to relieve pressure as they mine. These depressurization wells do not lower the aquifer level. The other water use at the mine is for washing equipment and controlling dust. No sludge pits are used at Three Oaks Mine, but mining requires ponds to retain stormwater so sediments settle out before the water is treated for pH and discharged to channels. At reclamation, these ponds become desirable land features and good for attracting wildlife. Luminant does not own the water rights to the land it purchased from San Antonio. City Public Service retained the rights to the underground water.

Discussion of the value of lignite revealed that the facility and equipment have taxation value but coal does not have value in the ground. Its value is set when it makes electricity.

The Luminant CAP meets again on Monday, May 10 for a tour of the power plants. For details about LCAP or its meetings, contact the facilitator at 800-484-9212 x 4127. Visitors are welcome!

Lexington area residents are also welcome to contact Bob Lee at 979/542-3006.

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