Water Management

Our Approach

Though we do not operate in a critical water area, water is essential to our operations at FirstEnergy and a prime example of our focus on environmental stewardship. Our water management approach focuses on both water quantity and quality.

We maintain a rigorous compliance process to meet all permitting rules and regulations. In accordance with our power generation-related permits, we closely monitor a wide range of quantity and quality metrics and report findings monthly to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Our permits are open for public comment and can be reviewed here. We also strive to comply with all federal, state and local permits required for our transmission and distribution projects.

We respond annually to CDP Water and CDP Climate questionnaires. To find our most recent CDP Water and CDP Climate reports and learn more about our water management practices, please visit our ESG Reports and Resources page here.

Power Generation Water
Quantity Management

Water quantity management involves ensuring we have enough water to run our two regulated coal-fired power plants, reducing water withdrawal and use where possible, and monitoring water releases to ensure we’re doing our part to prevent erosion and flooding in our communities.

Both coal-fired plants—Harrison and Fort Martin—function with 100% closed-cycle cooling systems (with cooling towers), which use approximately 90% less water compared to once-through, open-cycle cooling systems. This has helped our regulated generation fleet avoid about 90 billion gallons in water withdrawals every year, reducing our use of this important natural resource.

We also run additional reuse processes at Harrison and Fort Martin to further minimize water use at the plants. At Harrison, we collect landfill water runoff—called leachate—and recycle 50% for use in the scrubber, while carefully treating the rest before release to the West Fork River. This process reduces the amount of water we withdraw from the river for use in the scrubber by about 100 gallons per minute, or approximately 52.5 million gallons annually. At Fort Martin, we run a similar recycling project to return leachate for use in the cooling tower, which reduces the amount of water we withdraw from the local river by about 88,200 gallons per day, or approximately 32 million gallons annually.

As we continue our focus on these environmental stewardship efforts, we have set a goal to further reduce water consumption at our two coal plants by 20% by 2030, based on a 2019 baseline. Please see our ESG data table for additional water reporting.

We’re targeting a 20% reduction in water consumption at our two coal plants by 2030 from our 2019 baseline.

Power Generation Water
Quality Management

Water quality management involves closely monitoring the contents of water used at our two plants, carefully managing wastewater, and appropriately cleaning and treating water to remove metals and other compounds before release. We monitor water releases to ensure we’re protecting surface water and groundwater in the areas where our plants operate, while meeting compliance standards set by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Our Harrison scrubber process is a zero-discharge system, which means we release no water as part of those operations. Instead, we carefully collect water from the landfill at Harrison and either recycle it for use in the scrubber or treat the landfill water to clean it before release. At Fort Martin, we use sophisticated water treatment methods to remove metals and other compounds before release.

Transmission and Distribution
Water Management and Protection

On the transmission and distribution sides of our business, we are also focused on both water quantity and quality-related issues.

During the planning and siting of projects, we employ a permitting review process to minimize environmental impacts of construction activities and daily operations. Through conducting that process and pursuing the permits required by federal, state and local regulations, we survey sensitive environmental resources and species located in and around existing and proposed rights-of-way. Then, we develop permit plans that avoid or minimize the impacts to these resources and species.

Our first goal is always to avoid any impact on wetland and stream habitats. That requires evaluating project plans from an ecological perspective and choosing options and construction practices that have the least impact, whenever possible. However, when it is impossible to avoid a habitat, our goal shifts to minimizing and mitigating potential impacts, as warranted. Some examples of minimization and mitigation strategies include:

Additionally, we develop storm water pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs) as part of our transmission and distribution project planning process. These SWPPPs are project specific and rely on best practices for both preventing erosion from stormwater runoff and protecting the quality of local waterways and tributaries from construction-related silt and sediment. Plans are developed by our Environmental group and provided to the Construction & Design Services group to make sure we comply with all applicable rules and regulations.

We also focus on preventing erosion and protecting waterways outside the scope of project planning. For example, we built retention basins around our LEED-certified Center for Advanced Energy Technology (CAET) to prevent flooding and erosion by restricting the flow of rainwater back to streets and storm drains. As part of our Energizing the Future transmission program, we also install similar retention basins around newly constructed substations to protect communities and local waterways from flooding and erosion. In addition, our CAET facility features a bioretention system that uses soil, sand and vegetation to help remove pollutants from rainwater before releasing the water back to the community’s storm drain system.

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