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Effort under way to stop Fayette County ash dumping

| Thursday, March 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Bridgeville-based environmental group said Wednesday that a decade-long plan to reclaim a Fayette County gob pile using coal ash isn't working and it's prepared to sue to stop dumping of ash at the site.

The company denies the claim that the ash creates a pollution problem instead of solving one.

The Citizens Coal Council filed a notice of intent, which federal environmental laws require, that it will sue Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc. of Forward to stop the use of coal ash at LaBelle Coal Reclamation Development Area.

Richard Webster, an attorney for the national group Public Justice, said that although coal ash is intended to stabilize the 500-acre site, it hasn't worked.

“They've been doing this for about 10 years and there's no sign of the pollution decreasing,” he said.

William Gorton, the attorney for Canestrale, said he hasn't seen the group's notice but the company follows the law and a reclamation plan to which state and federal regulators agreed.

“Everything that's going on is totally in accord with applicable law,” he said. “It's been approved by all the regulatory agencies.”

The environmental group contends the ash added to the pollution. Heavy metal-laden dust blows onto nearby residences, it says, and coal waste byproducts such as boron are leaching into groundwater.

Webster said the group wants Canestrale to stop dumping coal ash and find a way to stop waste from escaping the site.

“They need to stop the pollution from going beyond the site boundary,” he said.

The group plans to sue under several state and federal environmental laws, some of which require that it give the company up to 90 days advance notice of the lawsuit.

Canestrale is reclaiming the largest coal waste pile in northern Appalachia. It uses coal ash to stabilize the site, Gorton said. He denied the ash adds to the pollution. “There's no evidence of that,” he said. “They have never shown us any science for that, ever.”

The Department of Environmental Protection said in January that it would step up monitoring of the site because Canestrale agreed to start taking about 3 million tons of coal ash annually from FirstEnergy Corp. as it shuts down its former dump site, Little Blue Run in Beaver County.

DEP spokesman John Poister declined comment.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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