Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DEP Files Settlement To Close Little Blue Run Coal Ash Disposal Facility

The Department of Environmental Protection filed a complaint and proposed consent decree July 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against First Energy Generating Corp. requiring the company to submit a plan to close the Little Blue Run coal waste impoundment in Beaver County.
“This proactive move is aimed at addressing comprehensively for the future long-standing matters about the Little Blue Run impoundment,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “We believe this will not only make major strides in environmental projects for that area, but also bring peace of mind to many residents who have expressed concerns about the Little Blue Run impoundment.”
The key terms of the consent decree are that First Energy will submit a closure plan for the facility within one year and halt disposal of all currently authorized wastes no later than December 31, 2016.
Further, First Energy will offer no-cost connections to a public water system within two years to 21 residences in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Those residents’ water wells, while currently unaffected by the impoundment, are located nearby. First Energy will also conduct fugitive particulate monitoring to make sure that operations at the site do not cause an exceedance of air quality standards.  
First Energy will also undertake a comprehensive study to determine how to address the impoundment’s environmental impacts and, if necessary, mitigate them.
Finally, First Energy will pay a civil fine of $800,000 to the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Abatement Fund and be subject to stipulated penalties for violations of the consent decree.
“We believe this is the first time PADEP or any regulator has formally recognized that pollution from coal ash ponds like Little Blue Run release pollutants may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to nearby residents and the environment,” said Lisa Widawsky Hallowell, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “The Department is taking the concerns we raised seriously enough to file suit in federal court to protect residents from those dangers. We’re looking forward to reviewing the consent decree and continuing our work to ensure that this site is promptly remediated and closed.”

“PA DEP has recognized that FirstEnergy’s disposal of wet coal ash into a huge unlined lagoon has caused major environmental problems, despite existing state regulations,” said Public Justice Attorney Richard Webster. “We are pleased that PA DEP has recognized the problems and started to make FirstEnergy solve them.”
The groups noted the DEP action was filed 59 days after the Environmental Integrity Project and Public Justice gave notice that they would sue FirstEnergy, the owner of Little Blue Run, in 60-90 days for endangerment and other violations on behalf of Little Blue Regional Action Group, a coalition of residents who live near the coal ash impoundment.
The state action filed the first-ever lawsuit against a coal ash dump operator for causing a potential “imminent and substantial endangerment” to human health and the environment by operating the nation’s largest coal ash impoundment, Little Blue Run, which spans the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border.
At nearly 1,700 acres, FirstEnergy’s Little Blue Run is the largest coal ash disposal pond in the nation, and the citizen groups had identified in their letter numerous releases of toxic pollutants like arsenic and selenium into both ground water and surface water.
Although FirstEnergy has disposed of well over 20 billion gallons of coal ash at Little Blue Run, the site has no liner and has never been covered to prevent the release of toxic pollutants. The impoundment sits on the banks of the Ohio River, a drinking water source for millions of people.
“For years, we have known that the toxic coal ash in Little Blue Run was poisoning our drinking water and our environment,” said Curt Havens, vice president of the Little Blue Regional Action Group. “We appreciate that the PA DEP appears to be taking action to stop FirstEnergy from continuing to pollute our community, and we are going to continue to work to ensure that all current sources of pollution from this site are cleaned up and all future contamination is prevented.”
FirstEnergy Compelled To Close Beaver Waste Dump
FirstEnergy, State Agree To Close Beaver Coal Waste Impoundment
DEP Orders Shutdown Of Little Blue Run Ash Pond

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