Residents say Fayette coal ash dump like 'the moon'
Residents near a coal ash dump in Fayette County describe a neighborhood where birds die after drinking from puddles, puppies have birth defects, people are sick and gray dust covers everything.
“It looks like the moon,” said Jayne Daugherty, 50, one of nine residents who spoke Thursday night at a two-hour public meeting about the LaBelle dump in Luzerne, owned by Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc. “People act like we don't matter. … What am I supposed to do? I'm stuck here. Is that fair?”
More than 70 people filled the Luzerne Township fire hall in the old coal mining community of LaBelle — which has about 220 residents — along the Monongahela River. About 10 officials from the Department of Environmental Protection were there to take testimony and lead an informational meeting, the first of a series of events tied to the dump's permit renewal.
Canestrale is seeking the dump's third permit renewal since it opened in 1998. It's a 504-acre, 40-million-ton hill of coal waste from defunct mines.
The company took control of the site under an agreement to accept fly ash waste from power plants and use that as a low-level cement to solidify the site, one of the region's largest gob piles.
“We've investigated every health complaint, visited every home … and we can't support the claims that this is caused by off-site fugitive dust,” said Joel Koricich, environmental group manager for DEP's district mining operations. Several studies have shown the dust is organic matter, he said. “I can appreciate the concerns and the complaints. We take them seriously.”
Some residents believe they've suffered a disproportionate amount of illnesses like asthma and cancer, which they blamed on the dump. The site is unstable and leeches manganese, sulfate and aluminum pollution into local water supplies, said Michael Nixon, a board member at the Citizens Coal Council, which is pursuing a lawsuit to shut down the site.
“It's really easy to get up and give a lot of rhetorical comments unsubstantiated by facts,” said Hiram Ribblett, a contracted engineer for Canestrale. “Most of what you heard was rhetoric.”
DEP oversight at the dump has larger business implications for the region. Chevron Corp. started seismic testing for gas exploration, but the DEP temporarily stopped it for extra scrutiny. FirstEnergy Corp. has a pending deal to ship 3 million tons a year of power plant waste from its giant Bruce Mansfield Plant in Beaver County to the LaBelle dump because FirstEnergy's first dump closed under a litany of environmental complaints.
“It doesn't make sense,” Yma Smith, 56, said about the deal to close one dump and keep another 250 feet from her home open for the waste. “People here are sick and dying.”
Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Sex trafficking survivor to speak at Penn State Fayette
- Uniontown freight train derailment blamed on bad crossties
- Connellsville middle schoolers ‘Adopt a Grandparent’
- Fayette County Crime Victims Center marking milestone
- Coroner identifies body in Yough River as Carnegie man
- Fayette County prosecutors drop charges filed by indicted ex-officer
- Porterfield: Champion’s County Line Church to serve chicken and biscuit dinner
- Presentation shines light on Dunbar’s industrial past
- Bullskin Township Elementary student council gets students involved
- Former Redstone officer indicted in civil rights case
- Incumbent coroner, underling seek Dem nod in race for Fayette coroner