Sandow 4 maintenance: 1,400 workers, 3 months

Temporary jobs part of pollution reduction agreement

Luminant’s massive anti-pollution project at Sandow Power Plant Unit 4 will send about 1,400 workers to the Rockdale area this year.

Design and engineering work on the project—known as selective catalytic reduction (SCR)— has actually been under way for several years.

It’s part of the consent decree ordered by Federal District Judge Sam Sparks, which cleared the way for the construction of the adjacent Sandow 5 unit, which fired up last August.

Nitrogen and water

The 2010 work, expected to last from February to April is the major tie-in to the 545-megawatt power plant.

Laura Starnes, Luminant spokesperson, compared SCR to the catalytic converter on a vehicle.

She said the combustion gas is injected with an ammoniaforming chemical which then passes through a catalyst which converts nitrogen oxide (NOX) to nitrogen and water.

Temporary jobs

The 1,400 jobs will help the Rockdale economy during the first half of 2010 but they are temporary and another milestone is looming for the area.

By late summer, well after completion of the Sandow 4 work, the supplemental unemployment benefit (SUB) pay for the remainder of 1,100 laid-off Alcoa employees will run out.

That’s the point, according to analysts when Rockdale should see the full force of the 2008 Alcoa closing, in areas ranging from unemployment rates to school enrollment.

Consent decree

The Sandow 4 project had its roots in a lawsuit by three environmental groups, Neighbors for Neighbors, Public Citizen and Environmental Defense.

The groups claimed work performed on Unit 4 in the mid- 1980s was more than routine maintenance and should have triggered additional pollution restrictions immediately.

As part of the settlement Alcoa agreed to shut down its three older power plant units, which were constructed in the early 1950s.

That was accomplished in 2006.

Judge Sparks also ordered additional pollution equipment be installed at Unit 4. That’s the long-standing SCR project.

Alcoa was fined and the consent decree also ordered the new Unit 5 to be running by Aug. 31, 2009, as a replacement for Units 1, 2 and 3.

In the interim, Alcoa decided to close its Rockdale smelter and sue Luminant over the cost of energy delivered to Rockdale Operations.

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2010-01-07 digital edition

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