DEP: FirstEnergy must close Beaver County ash dump by end of 2028
The state Department of Environmental Protection said on Thursday that it is giving FirstEnergy 14 years to close a sprawling coal-ash dump that has polluted groundwater in Beaver County and West Virginia's northern panhandle.
The DEP issued a closure permit that requires FirstEnergy to complete all work associated with closing the 978-acre impoundment known as Little Blue Run by Dec. 31, 2028. The deadline is three years sooner than the company proposed but slower than community and environmental groups wanted.
The permit requires FirstEnergy to monitor groundwater and surface water from more than 300 locations instead of the 74 sites that the company proposed. FirstEnergy must control noise, odors and particulate emissions from the dump, among other requirements.
The dump is a sprawling pond that covers about one-fifth of Greene Township and reaches into West Virginia. FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield power plant in Shippingport — the largest in the state — pumps about 3 million gallons of waste slurry into it every day via four underground pipes stretching seven miles.
FirstEnergy, based in Akron, agreed to stop pumping coal-waste slurry into the dump by Dec. 31, 2016.
“The process to close the largest coal combustion waste-disposal impoundment in the country was strenuous and thorough, involving citizens who provided numerous comments, DEP staff and FirstEnergy,” said Mike Forbeck, waste mangement program manager for DEP's Southwest Region.
FirstEnergy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton said the company has not received a copy of the closure permit as of Thursday afternoon, “but we have been in touch with DEP about the terms and conditions.”
“FirstEnergy is committed to closing the facility in a safe and sound manner in compliance with the DEP permit,” Walton said.
Lisa Graves-Marcucci, a Pennsylvania representative for the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project, declined to comment, saying that she hasn't seen details of the closure permit.
Her group, along with the local Little Blue Regional Action Group and Washington-based public interest group Public Justice, threatened in 2012 to sue FirstEnergy over what they viewed as unsafe safety measures and conditions at the dump. Last year, the Enviromental Integrity Project called for FirstEnergy to close the dump by Dec. 31, 2020.
Last summer, FirstEnergy officials told community residents at a public meeting that the company intended to cover the slurry in 65-acre segments each year. DEP wants the work done faster, with the company placing an impenetrable plastic liner over the waste; a cloth layer over the liner; and one foot of soil and vegetative cover over the cloth.
DEP said that FirstEnergy has posted a financial assurance bond of more than $169 million — the largest ever required by the state for a waste management facility — to ensure that all work is done properly.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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