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People In Alexandria Get A Breathe Of Fresh Air

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By Michael Pope

Residents in Alexandria, Virginia, can breathe easier, next year. That's when new technology will be installed at a coal-fired power plant on the city’s waterfront. The improvement to air quality comes thanks to a $34 million settlement the city reached back in 2008 with Atlanta-based energy company Mirant. Environmental director Bill Srabak says the money will pay for technology to reduce particulate matter released into the atmosphere.

"We have to remember where we started from, which was Mirant basically saying, ‘There’s no way you can install this technology at this facility.' It doesn't make sense," says Srabak.

Progress has been slow since the 2008 settlement. A plan to install drip pans was put on hold after permit modifications were requested. And the cost of a new windscreen to control fugitive dust more than doubled after city officials realized the condition of the soil at the site, causing Councilman Paul Smedberg to question the other cost estimates.

"If we were surprised by soil, I can only imagine what we’re going to be surprised by when we actually get into that facility and really look at how this thing is going to work," he says.

Improvements could come as early as November 2011.

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