DEP to keep close watch on dumping at Fayette County site
State regulators are starting close monitoring of a coal waste site in Fayette County that has a history of environmental violations and a brand new deal to take more waste from the state's largest power plant.
The Department of Environmental Protection will be on site to see everything from delivery to dumping of coal ash at the LaBelle CRDA site in Luzerne, owned by Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc., a DEP spokesman said on Thursday.
The company had about 20 violations in five years, with neighbors complaining about a relentless gray dust and new health problems since the operation started more than a decade ago, prompting the increased scrutiny. CRDA stands for coal reclamation development area.
“We want to see the entire process,” said John Poister, the DEP's regional spokesman in Pittsburgh. “For the most part these are what we consider minor violations. They're what we consider dust control problems. ... Taken as a whole, it is a lot of violations.”
Canestrale could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Bill Gorton of Kentucky, said he was not aware of the new oversight plan and stressed that company had resolved all of the state's citations. The company is using the coal ash to act as cement and stabilize the site, a 100-year-old waste coal pile.
Neighbors within a mile of it say everything from windowsills to indoor furniture gets covered in dust from ongoing deliveries of coal ash. They have been complaining to state and federal officials for years about uncovered trucks letting the dry waste float everywhere, dead vegetation and a litany of illnesses, from respiratory problems to kidney failure to cancer, they said.
Now they're in an uproar that the site has a new deal to take more waste, coming from the giant Bruce Mansfield Plant in Shippingport. Its owner, FirstEnergy Corp., announced Wednesday it plans to send LaBelle about 3 million tons a year of waste that it had been sending to a Beaver County dump the state is shutting down because it polluted groundwater. Several environmental groups including the Sierra Club are putting public support behind protests from Luzerne residents.
“There are times when it looks like a Sahara Desert dust storm,” said George B. Markish, 75, who lives about 500 yards from the site. Both he and his wife have fought cancer in recent years, he said. “I can't say that caused it wholly, but for Christ's sake I know it doesn't do me any good. ... I understand they have to do something with it, but haven't we been dumped on enough?”
It will be up to Matt Canestrale Contracting to resolve any issues with the Department of Environmental Protection, said FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin. The company already sends some waste to LaBelle and did examine its operations before finalizing the new deal, Durbin said. Both he and Gorton blamed the environmental groups for the pushback against sending waste to LaBelle.
If the DEP approves it, LaBelle could start taking Bruce Mansfield's waste in 2017, according to FirstEnergy.
“I think that's good news,” said Gorton, adding that it would speed up LaBelle's stabilization so that dumping there might end within 5 to 10 years.
“It's very easy for (residents) to make unsubstantiated claims. Look, they've been living below an unreclaimed gob pile for 40 to 50 years, and that's a highly industrialized valley that they live in.”
Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mylan completes inversion with Abbott to move headquarters to Netherlands, lower taxes
- Oakland firm Qualaris Healthcare’s software saves time in hospitals
- Nasdaq climbs over 5,000 points ... 15 years later
- Pittsburgh gas pump prices up nearly 9 cents
- Bill Gates repeats at top of Forbes’ list of billionaires
- Severance tax on natural gas drilling backed by Pa. voters
- Mylan closes $5.3B tax-lowering deal with Abbott Labs
- Shift in what powers the grid raises concerns about fuel diversity
- Few in Westmoreland County opposed to expansion plan for Mariner pipeline
- Free-market thinker Hall to lead Congressional Budget Office
- Wolf tax proposal puts Beaver County Shell plant at risk, gas group head says