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Beaver County residents sue FirstEnergy Corp. over coal waste dump

Brian Bowling
| Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 3:12 p.m.

The Little Blue Run coal waste dump damaged properties and will continue to do so for decades, 15 Beaver County residents claim in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit against FirstEnergy Corp. mirrors one filed in October in Wheeling, W.Va., by more than 50 property owners. Both seek damages over arsenic, sulfates and other contaminants leaching from the dump.

“It's just the Pennsylvania version of that,” said James DePasquale, one of the lawyers for the Beaver County residents. They had to sue in Pennsylvania instead of joining the West Virginia lawsuit, he said.

A FirstEnergy spokeswoman declined comment.

Kevin Madonna, another attorney for the residents, said the West Virginia lawsuit is still in the pre-trial stage and there's no good estimate on how long it will take to resolve the lawsuits.

The residents are seeking monetary damages that will allow them to move away from the contamination, he said.

“Their properties have been permanently devalued,” Madonna said.

Little Blue Run accepts coal slurry piped seven miles from the Bruce Mansfield power plant in Shippingport.

The 1,700-acre impoundment contains enough coal ash to cover 62,600 acres if it were spread out one foot deep, the lawsuit says. By comparison, Pittsburgh's city limits include about 37,300 acres.

FirstEnergy settled a Department of Environmental Protection lawsuit last year by agreeing to stop using the unlined reservoir by Dec. 31, 2016. The company's closure plan includes letting liquid waste harden and then covering it with layers of high-density plastic, cloth and soil.

The closure process is scheduled to take at least 15 years after the dump quits taking waste.

Groundwater contamination will continue and likely peak in 70 to 100 years, the lawsuit says.

Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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