Final fly ash clean-up begins

| Monday, Jan. 18, 2010

Nearly five years after fly ash and other debris flowed down Rostosky Ridge Road in Forward Township, work was expected to begin to remove the final remains of that slide.

The last phase of the clean-up will take place along a stream channel in the valley below River Hill Road, the state Department of Environmental Resources reported. The ash removal will follow the stream channel from the slide area, down Rostosky Ridge Road to the Monongahela River - a distance of approximately one mile.

"DEP has met with residents of Rostosky Ridge Road to delineate the areas of concern and we will continue to work with residents to ensure that all visible ash is removed," DEP Southwest Regional Director George Jugovic Jr. said in a released statement.

In addition to ash removal, the DEP will conduct sampling and lab analysis to confirm arsenic levels in the soil impacted by the slide are at safe levels.

The DEP has established a field office at the intersection of Rostosky Ridge Road and Rainbow Run Road.

Cleanup immediately following the slide in 2005 included removal and disposal of 1,500 tons of ash from the public parking lot at Gallatin Sunnyside Park and the commercial and affected residential properties on Rostosky Ridge Road.

From January 2006 through August 2006, the DEP removed 40,000 tons of ash from the embankment, eliminating any risk of another release of fly ash from the slide area.

The slide occurred Jan. 25, 2005, when an embankment adjacent to River Hill Road, made of coal ash was deposited decades ago, collapsed and temporarily dammed the stream at the embankment's base. When the ash dam failed, the ground broke loose and water, slurry and tree branches rushed down the hill onto Rostosky Ridge Road, which is located just off Route 136.

Some water and debris from the slide spilled onto Route 136 near Rapp's Restaurant.

In October 2006, residents along Rostosky Ridge Road and a portion of Rainbow Run Road filed a lawsuit in Allegheny County Court in an effort to force the DEP to clean the site.

The suit claimed the DEP violated the Clean Streams Act, the Air Pollution and Control Act and the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act and created a private and public nuisance.

The suit also named as defendants:

- Allegheny Energy, because documents revealed the fly ash was generated at the company's Mitchell Power Station.

- The state Department of Transportation, for using fly ash in an effort to stabilize River Hill Road and maintaining the hazardous substance within its right-of-way and/or embankment supporting the road.

- The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, because its water main ruptured, bringing the fly ash hillside down into the neighborhood.

- Weavertown Environmental Group, because of alleged "negligent remediation at the site, which caused further harm."

The state maintained that tests previously conducted by the Allegheny County Department of Health found low levels of arsenic - consistent with an area where coal is burned to produce electricity.

The agreement called for more than $3 million in claims and damages to be paid to the commonwealth and to 25 residents on or near Rostosky Ridge Road.

The commonwealth received approximately $1.8 million for cleanup costs and monitoring, with the rest going to the residents for compensation and damages, including:

- $550,000 to DEP from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.

- $100,000 to the Department of Transportation from MAWC.

- $1.0175 million to DEP from West Penn Power, now a subsidiary of Allegheny Energy.

- From $87,500 and $175,000 to DEP from the sale of several properties in the area of the accident

The 25 residents split $1.325 million - $500,000 from PennDOT and $825,000 combined from West Penn /Allegheny Energy, MAWC, two contractors, URS Corp., and Weavertown Environmental Group. The agreement did not spell out how much each residential homeowner received.

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