Little Blue Run ash reservoir in Greene Township called hazard
The Little Blue Run coal ash storage reservoir in Beaver County was identified Monday by federal officials as one of the 44 most hazardous in the nation, not because of any defects but because it is near where people live.
Beaver County is the only community in Pennsylvania that is identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a place where residents are potentially threatened by coal ash storage ponds similar to one that flooded a neighborhood in Tennessee last year.
Little Blue Run, located along the Ohio River in Greene Township, stores coal combustion waste from FirstEnergy Corp.'s Bruce Mansfield power plant in Shippingport, seven miles away.
"A high hazard potential rating indicates that a failure will probably cause a loss of human life," according to the EPA. "The rating is not an indication of the structural integrity of the unit or the possibility that a failure will occur in the future."
FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said there are no residents between the dam and the Ohio River.
"It's a large facility; that's why it's on the list, but in our minds it's very safe," Durbin said, explaining that FirstEnergy has the site inspected twice a year. He said it is inspected by the state Department of Environmental Protection every year.
No problems were found in the latest state inspection on Jan. 21, Durbin said. DEP officials could not be reached for comment.
Two days before Christmas, a coal ash pond broke near Kingston, Tenn., sending 5 million cubic yards of ash and sludge across more than 300 acres.
Durbin said "Little Blue," one of the largest coal ash reservoirs in the East, was built with 9 million cubic yards of rock fill, making it much stronger than the Tennessee Valley Authority facility near Kingston. He said the coal ash at Little Blue is more solid and less liquid than that stored near Kingston.
Other reservoirs on the EPA list are located in Cheshire, Brilliant, and Waterford, Ohio, and St. Albans and Moundsville, W.Va.