The largest coal-ash pond in the United States – the 1,700-acre Little Blue Run impoundment site in Pennsylvania and West Virginia for FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield Plant – is the focus of litigation to be filed by Little Blue Regional Action Group, formerly known as Citizens Against Coal Ash, along with attorneys from Environmental Integrity Project and Public Justice.
According to the notice of intent (NOI) filed by LBRAG: Leaks, seeps, and direct discharges of toxic pollution from the Little Blue Run impoundment violate both federal (the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) and state (Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams) law. The notice letter alleges that FirstEnergy has misrepresented the amount of toxic waste it is releasing from the impoundment in violation of federal right to know laws. A copy of the LBRAG legal action is available online at https://www.environmentalintegrity.org/.
During the process of burning coal, FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield plant generates coal ash pollution and other waste, which it sends via a seven-mile pipeline to the nearby Little Blue Run impoundment site. About 60 percent of the coal ash pond is in Greene Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania and the rest of it is in Grant District, Hancock County, West Virginia.
There is no barrier at Little Blue Run to prevent pollution in the coal ash from reaching groundwater. The Little Blue Run coal ash dump site is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “high hazard,” meaning a breach of the impoundment’s dam would cause “probable” loss of about 50,000 human lives. Well over 20 billion gallons of coal ash are being held back from the Ohio River — a major drinking water source for downstream communities — by only an earth and rock dam. The Bruce Mansfield plant churns out almost 850 million gallons of coal ash annually.
Curt Havens, vice president, Little Blue Regional Action Group, said: “There is nothing ‘little’ about Little Blue Run: It is a prime example of how communities like ours can be polluted by toxic coal ash. The dumping of coal ash to the large unlined Little Blue Run site has caused widespread pollution in local groundwater, springs, and surface water. And, FirstEnergy is discharging far more selenium than is healthy for fish in the Ohio River. ”
Lisa Widawsky Hallowell, attorney, Environmental Integrity Project, said: “The nation’s largest coal ash surface impoundment – Little Blue Run – is also the nation’s poster child for poor management practices for disposal of toxic coal ash. There are better environmental requirements on the books in Pennsylvania yet FirstEnergy has managed to evade most of them for years, placing human lives and the environment in harm’s way. Local residents have banded together to finally seek justice and an end to the pollution in these quiet communities.”
Richard Webster, attorney, Public Justice, said: ” Little Blue Run is a throwback to the times when waste was disposed in open pits with no cover or liner to prevent pollution. It has slipped through the cracks in state and federal regulation of coal ash. We have therefore been forced to resort to legal action to protect the local citizens and the environment.”
Among the issues the groups are alleging in the NOI are that:
- FirstEnergy’s unsafe disposal practices at Little Blue have contaminated surface and groundwater with boron, manganese, sulfate, arsenic, and other pollution in violation of federal waste laws;
- FirstEnergy is discharging selenium and boron from Little Blue directly into the Ohio River at levels that are toxic to fish and other aquatic life, in violation of the terms of the energy company’s Clean Water Act permit. For example, actual loadings of selenium are at least 2.5 to 5.5 times higher than the levels the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection determined could be toxic to fish. Boron concentrations just downstream of the Little Blue River impoundment exceeded water quality criteria every quarter for the last five years of available data;
- FirstEnergy is discharging arsenic, boron, sulfate, manganese, iron, and other pollution to groundwater in violation of the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law; and
- FirstEnergy has misreported or failed to report to the EPA thousands of pounds of toxic releases from the Impoundment, keeping private information that is required to be posted for the public.
Tags: ash pond, clean water, clean water act, coal ash, company, county west virginia, department of environmental protection, dump site, energy company, environment, environmental integrity, environmental protection agency, firstenergy, impoundment, integrity project, mile pipeline, notice of intent, pennsylvania department of environmental protection, public justice, recovery act, regional action, rock dam, streams law, toxic pollution, toxic waste, USA
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