GREENE TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – From the air, Little Blue Run may look benign — even fit for recreation.
“Looks can be very deceiving,” Lisa Marcucci, an environmentalist, said. “There’s nothing little about Little Blue. It’s one the nation’s largest coal ash impoundments.”
Fly ash and calcium sulfate trapped at First Energy’s Bruce Mansfield plant is pumped through a seven mile long pipeline into the three-square mile Little Blue lagoon — creating what environmentalists call a dangerous cocktail of chemicals and heavy metals.
“Arsenic, selenium, mercury, lead, boron,” Marcucci said.
The lagoon is held at bay by this earthen dam — the largest of its kind in the country. And unlike newer impoundments, at 35, Little Blue was built before these types of facilities were required to be lined underneath.
“There’s been a lot of people who have had cancer,” Marcia Hughes, of Greene Township, said. “There are skin issues, respiratory issues.”
Residents of Greene Township, Beaver County, are opposing Little Blue’s proposed expansion – the creation of new disposal facility adjacent to the existing impoundment.
They believe serious health problem have already resulted from ground and well water contamination — something First Energy denies.
“And it’s unlined so that is definitely going into our water table,” Marcia Hughes, of Greene Township, said. “No matter what they tell us, it’s going into our water table.”
Company representatives declined to appear on camera, but in response to written questions, First Energy says 42 monitoring wells reveal no elevated levels of chemicals or toxins.
“We do not believe there is any contamination from Little Blue Run. … Specifically, there are no confirmed exceedances of established drinking water standards of arsenic in any drinking water wells we have sampled.”
But that’s small comfort to people on the West Virginia side of Little Blue where water is actually seeping from the impoundment.
First Energy is building pump stations to capture the seepage and return it to the lagoon.
“Concern is the unknown. We don’t know what in the water,” Curtis Havens, of Lawrenceville, W. Va., said.
And while First Energy says the testing of that water reveals no dangerous levels of chemicals — residents of Lawrenceville say they’ve had enough of Little Blue.
“We want them to buy us out … so we can move to a place that’s not contaminated our health … we can live our lives the way we’ve been living before they come in our back yard,” Havens said.
But for a chain link fence, Little Blue might seem inviting, but residents say the damage has already been done and they don’t want to see any more.