Reporting Andy Sheehan
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Some call it fly ash, the power industry calls it scrubber waste, captured in the combustion of coal in coal-fired power plants like Bruce Mansfield in Shippingport, Beaver County.
For decades the waste from Shippingport plant has been pumped in slurry form into Little Blue Run — the largest coal waste lagoon in the nation, but the feds have ordered Little Blue shut down and nearby residents oppose construction of a new disposal site.
So now FirstEnergy Corporation wants to ship the waste on barges 96 miles down the Ohio and Monongahela rivers to Luzerne Township, Fayette County, where they don’t want it either.
“They don’t want it in their backyard — don’t bring their garbage down to us,” Luzerne Township Supervisor Ted Kollar said.
In Luzerne, barges loaded with coal waste from other power plants already arrive daily on the banks of the Mon, where it’s loaded onto trucks.
From there it’s hauled up to the dump, an abandoned strip mine outside the village of Labelle, where residents there say ash blows from these uncovered trucks, filling the air and covering their roads and yards.
For years residents have blamed the ash for a high incidence of serious health problems.
“We’ve had problems with cancer and everything else,” Kollar said.
But while conceding that the waste contains heavy metals such as arsenic and lead, the industry notes that federal environmental officials have yet to classify coal ash as hazardous.
And FirstEnergy says the dump here will actually be beneficial: sealing this mine and neutralizing acid runoff.
But Township Attorney Jack Purcell is skeptical.
“It has not been well studied and is still untested,” Purcell said.
At Little Blue in Beaver County, recent tests confirm that seepage has contaminated groundwater and FirstEnergy has been slapped with an $800,000 fine and a closure order.
In Luzerne, the township doesn’t want to take in any more of the waste. Officials say they plan to fight it.
And that is the message in Fayette County is, if you don’t want it in your backyard don’t ship it down here and dump it in ours.
The FirstEnergy proposal isn’t going over well.