The plant at the foot of East Avenue is now completely shut down, an official said.
Erie Coke Corp. completed its shutdown of the plant at the foot of East Avenue over the weekend, a company official said Monday.
As part of the closure process, Erie Coke had to dispose of byproducts produced in the coke-making process, including coke-oven gas, the company’s environmental director, Ed Nesselbeck, said previously.
Nesselbeck said Friday that the company used pressurized nitrogen to push all remaining coke-oven gas to one of two combustion sources, where it was burned so that the gas itself was not released into the air.
That process was completed over the weekend, he said on Monday.
Coke-oven gas would typically be used to continue heating the enormous ovens used to produce coke, a coal derivative used as a fuel in a variety of industries — but once the ovens began to cool following the plant’s closure on Thursday, the coke-oven gas had to be handled differently.
Nesselbeck said Friday that the last remaining coke had been pushed out of the ovens and no additional coal would be loaded into them. The ovens, once cooled, will crack and become unusable, he said.
Now that the nitrogen purging process is complete, Nesselbeck said, the company has begun a “major inventory of material on site.”
“That will lead to a waste management plan,” he said. The waste includes tar that was removed and recovered from the coke-oven gas, he said.
The shutdown process is distinct from the remediation effort that ultimately will be required at the Erie Coke property on Erie’s east bayfront.
The plant closed unexpectedly Thursday as Erie Coke faced mounting environmental problems.
The final blow came when the city of Erie, under pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, blocked Erie Coke from discharging wastewater into the city’s sanitary sewer system because of persistent noncompliance with wastewater rules.
Erie Coke shut down when it could not provide the city with a timeline to reach compliance, city and Erie Coke officials have said. The closure left the plant’s 137 employees out of work.
The plant was also facing an impending legal fight with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which announced July 1 it would not renew Erie Coke’s Title V operating permit because of environmental violations related to air quality.
A DEP spokesman said Friday that the department had reviewed Erie Coke’s shutdown procedures and found them acceptable.
The DEP on Thursday also moved to freeze $1 million in an Erie Coke bank account to ensure the funds were put toward a safe shutdown process. Senior Erie County Judge William R. Cunningham granted that request and continued his order at a hearing on Friday, over Erie Coke’s objections.
Madeleine O’Neill can be reached at 870-1728 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNoneill.