Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Plan to Close Coal Waste Site Has 'Deficiencies,' Dep Says

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Plan to Close Coal Waste Site Has 'Deficiencies,' Dep Says

Article excerpt

FirstEnergy's plan to close its Little Blue Run coal ash impoundment in Beaver County contains more than 160 "deficiencies," including a failure to acknowledge arsenic contamination of groundwater, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

While many of those deficiencies are technical in nature, the DEP's 29-page review letter to FirstEnergy also cites dozens that are more serious, especially the company's failure to report, monitor or address contamination of groundwater and surface water by a variety of heavy metal pollutants seeping from the nation's largest, unlined coal ash disposal site.

In a federal court consent decree approved in December 2012, FirstEnergy agreed to close "Little Blue" by the end of 2016 and submitted the required closure plan to the DEP in March.

First Energy has 60 days to correct the deficiencies or risk having its closure plan rejected. If the plan approval is delayed and the company misses consent decree deadlines, it could face court fines. John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said the department has not had any contact with the company since the letter was sent on Oct. 3.

The DEP letter repeatedly states the FirstEnergy water quality and well monitoring and assessments at the 1,300-acre impoundment are "incomplete," "inadequate" or "cannot be accepted" and requests multiple revisions and "reanalysis." It also characterized the company's plans to abate contamination of the groundwater and prevent future degradation by capping the impoundment with a 1-foot thick soil seal as "inadequate."

"The department does not consider those activities to constitute complete abatement measures," the DEP letter states, "in that they do not provide for any necessary restoration, reclamation or recovery of groundwater resources adversely affected by the waste disposal in the impoundment ..."

The impoundment, built in 1975 and located about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, sits astride the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border next to the Ohio River. …

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