MORGANTOWN — Longview Power President and CEO Jeffery Keffer said the company is committed to doing right by the residents along Fort Martin Road (County Route 53) and has promised about $1.5 million toward maintenance and upgrades for the route.
Further, Keffer explained, the recent increase in truck traffic on the road is not delivering coal to Longview, but hauling coal ash away from the nearby Fort Martin Power Station.
“We’re going to take care of this road for folks,” Keffer said. “It is deteriorating more rapidly than we thought it would, and I think a lot of it is the additional traffic we’re seeing during a difficult time of year — when you’ve got temperatures jumping from 10 degrees to 50 degrees in a day. That’s very tough on a road, but we’re going to take care of it.”
Keffer’s comments are in response to concerns raised about the traffic, road conditions, noise and overall dirty conditions left by the constant flow of trucks running the two-mile stretch between the Longview plant and a loading facility located on the Monongahela River.
A number of those residents met with representatives of Longview and the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) on Thursday to discuss their concerns — the same week the company patched the road after receiving approval from the DOH.
Keffer said the company will look at more permanent repairs this summer once asphalt is available, again pending approval from the DOH.
Fort Martin Road resident Margaret Batton has spoken publicly about the impact the trucks are having on the road and residents’ quality of life. She estimated at least 50 people attended the meeting and said she walked away feeling generally positive about the experience.
The meeting touched on Longview’s plans for Fort Martin Road, which include the construction of a widened turn lane where the trucks enter the power plant property, at Seece Lane.
Typically, between 12-15 trucks each haul a total of 25 tons of coal from the river to the plant daily.
When the 700 megawatt high efficiency, low emissions power plant opened in 2011, coal was delivered directly via conveyor belt from a nearby Mepco mine to Longview — about 1.8 million tons annually.
Mepco was also providing about 2 million tons of coal annually to First Energy, which operates the Fort Martin Power Station. That coal was trucked down Fort Martin Road to be barged out of the same loading facility that Longview now uses to receive coal.
“So there has been a change, but the amount of coal that’s going down Route 53, that hasn’t changed,” Keffer said.
When Mepco, which is owned by the same parent company as Longview, closed its mines a deal was struck to have coal barged from a nearby mine and trucked up to Longview.
With that change came a number of provisions in the company’s permit from the West Virginia Public Service Commission regarding weight, cleanliness, vehicle inspections, noise abatement and hours of operation (6 a.m.- 10 p.m.). Keffer said the company is strict about adhering to these standards
Further, he said the company has made commitments to the residents as well as the DOH regarding Fort Martin Road — including an evaluation of the roadway and “some pretty sizable repair work” this summer.
Keffer went on to say that the company also plans to address concerns regarding residents’ mailboxes by making the necessary repairs and paving those areas.
However, he continued, Longview has no control over the actions of other entities using the road.
Starting Jan. 1, coal ash that was previously trucked from the Fort Martin Power Station to the Longview site for disposal started being trucked down Fort Martin Road to the LP Minerals disposal landfill at the Humphrey Mine site, on Route 100.
Keffer said the coal ash represented about a 50 percent increase in truck traffic. The change came after Longview said it planned to charge more to receive the material.
“That’s a lot of additional traffic, and they’ve made no commitments to help maintain the road, and that’s a little frustrating,” Keffer said. “I can tell you it’s tough to say we’ll be responsible for maintaining the road and have them using it all the time. Honestly, we really think they’re the load that’s causing a lot of this distress.”
Batton said another meeting between the residents and Longview has been tentatively set for sometime in May.