MIT fined for emissions

Cogen violations cost Institute $15,000

Following a review of 2012 emissions records and an inspection of MIT’s power plant on Vassar Street, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) fined MIT $15,000 for violations in the monitoring of emissions.

Although the infractions occurred during 2010 and 2011, they were not discovered until MassDEP reviewed 2012 reports and inspected the MIT plant site, examining the plant’s emergency generators, boilers, and exhaust stacks.

“The inability to adequately monitor the facility’s air quality emissions, in a manner that is consistent with its operating permit, is unacceptable,” said Eric Worrall, acting Regional Director of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office.

MassDEP discovered that the plant had been emitting overly opaque emissions, as well as too much carbon monoxide. In addition, the plant’s systems responsible for monitoring carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides emissions and analyzing opacity were found to have unsafe amounts of downtime.

“MIT is committed to maintaining a green campus and clean air emissions are an important part of that effort. We are working with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to ensure our Central Utilities Plant meets or exceeds the standards specified in our air permits,” said William VanSchalkwyk, managing director of the Environment, Health, and Safety Office at MIT.

The Vassar Street plant, the William R. Dickson Cogeneration Facility, has been supplying heat, cold water, and electricity to MIT since 1995. Powered by natural gas, it contains boilers, a combustion turbine, and an emergency generator.

MIT plans to retrain employees who monitor emissions and opacity, implementing biannual refresher training sessions for staff. Furthermore, MIT will upgrade the exhaust stacks for natural gas boilers and emergency diesel engines by the end of this year, increasing the height of the stacks and adding vertical vents. The plant will also either insert active particulate matter filters on the diesel engines or remove them by March of next year.

“We have already implemented a number of changes and anticipate that we will be able to complete the remaining work by the deadlines set forth in our agreement,” said VanSchalkwyk, which means that in the following months, students can expect even more construction at MIT.