In the 1800s up until the mid-1900s, before natural gas was available as an energy source, gas was manufactured using coal, oil and petroleum. It was used primarily for heating, cooking and street lighting. The EPA estimates that thousands of manufactured gas plants (MGPs) operated in the United States between 1815 and 1960 and were owned by municipalities and corporations, including predecessor companies to today’s electric utilities. These plants produced a variety of waste products, including coal tar. Some of the waste products were sold or disposed and some were left at the plant site.
Given the extensive history of our operating companies—some going back more than 100 years—Xcel Energy has inherited several legacy manufactured gas plant sites. All of these plants were closed and dismantled and some of the properties were sold. Over the years, we have worked cooperatively with environmental agencies and communities to successfully investigate and remediate former MGP sites.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were used in the manufacturing of oil filled electrical equipment throughout the industry from the late 1920s until 1978. Since 1978, the EPA has regulated PCBs. Xcel Energy has been phasing out equipment that contains PCBs from our transmission and distribution system. We have a dedicated effort to remove transformers, capacitors and other regulated categories of equipment that have been identified as containing PCBs.
At some Xcel Energy sites, we may need to excavate and properly dispose of legacy PCB impacted soil. In 2014, the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG) obtained EPA approval for its member utilities – including Xcel Energy – to dispose of certain PCB remediation waste at nonhazardous waste landfills, if specific conditions of the approval are followed pursuant to federal regulations (40 C.F.R. 761.61(c)).
Learn more about our efforts to remove PCBs in our annual Corporate Responsibility Report
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have identified several acres of contaminated filled lakebed soils, near shore sediments, and groundwater along Ashland’s lakefront as a site requiring cleanup. This area is impacted from industrial uses at the turn of the 20th century. Learn more.
We are working with state and local officials and area property owners to take prudent steps to further investigate conditions of a historic manufactured gas plant site in Fargo, ND. Learn more.
The EPA issued “Risk-Based Approvals to Dispose of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Remediation Waste” to USWAG member companies on June 10, 2014. You can find this letter here (link to PDF). As a USWAG member listed in the EPA approval, and consistent with the approval, we intend to dispose of certain PCB impacted soils, with as found concentrations of <50 ppm PCBs in non-Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) approved landfill facilities, including municipal solid waste landfills.
For additional information, please contact Tedd Ronning in Xcel Energy’s Environmental Services department.
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