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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Public aids crackdown on gas plant in Chartiers

"August 20 – Residents have complained for years about thick black smoke and possible pollution coming from the MarkWest gas plant in Chartiers. But the state Department of Environmental Protection said it couldn't take action because it had no evidence. On Tuesday, the department said it had the goods. Someone snapped pictures of a plume of black smoke coming from the plant on July 14 and 15 and sent them to regulators. The DEP said Tuesday that the deluge of photos sent directly to its workers last month will likely lead to the first state environmental fine against the plant, owned by MarkWest Energy Partners LP. The pictures provided the evidence the agency needed that the plant was violating state environmental regulations, DEP spokesman John Poister said. “We can't be everywhere, so we appreciate the help we can get when something like this is going on,”
This case was particularly clear-cut, Poister said. The plant — which processes ethane, propane and butane out of the natural gas extracted from the Marcellus shale — is not supposed to emit any black smoke, a sign of air pollution. So when inspectors saw photos with black smoke, which witnesses claimed they could see from miles away, the state had the evidence it needed to assess violations against MarkWest, Poister said. “Why does it take so long to get someone's attention with this?” said Mark Bastien, who lives less than two miles from the plant and can see emissions from his backyard. “We're just so frustrated anymore because this has been going on for four or five years. We don't know what we're breathing out there.”"