HAYWARD -- A Hayward area power plant can continue releasing small amounts of toxic materials from its cooling tower at least until August, air quality regulators have ruled.

The cooling tower at the gas-fired Calpine power plant is emitting almost 10 times the allowed amount of water droplets that could contain particulate matter, its operator's own tests show, according to a complaint filed by the staff of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The suspect emissions are measured in parts per million.

Calpine agrees that water droplets exceeded the permitted level, but says the particulate matter in the droplets is within the allowed level.

The district's hearing board on Thursday agreed to a settlement that gives Calpine until Aug. 1 at the latest to fix the problem.

Calpine had asked for a Sept. 30 deadline to cut the emissions. In response, Hayward had asked the district to order Calpine to shut down Russell City until it fixes the problem.

The 619-megawatt natural-gas facility began operating in August and produces enough energy to power 600,000 homes.

-- Rebecca Parr, Staff



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