By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A plan to ship coal waste on barges from Beaver to Fayette County is not going over well.

The KD investigators raised questions about the proposal last week.

Now, the state department of environmental protection is launching an investigation of its own.

The plan is to ship millions of tons of coal ash from the Bruce Mansfield plant in Shippingport 96 miles to a dump in Fayette County.

But the state Department of Environmental protection has already had problems with the dumping going on there now.

“We have a number of complaints that date back several years,” said John Poister with the DEP. “We’ve gone down and cited them on numerous occasions.”

Just last week KDKA’s Andy Sheehan watched the operation in action — how coal waste from other power plants is off loaded from barges and then trucked up the hill to an old strip mine site and dumped.

Now the DEP is set to do an intensive investigation of its own.

“We’re going to put an inspector down there to observe over a period of time just to see how that operation works,” Poister said.

First Energy is currently dumping its coal waste at Little Blue Run, the largest coal ash lagoon in the nation, which must be shut down by 2016.

But the company’s plan to ship the waste to Fayette County isn’t going over well in Luzerne Township, where residents have complained of ash dust covering their roads and yards and related health problems.

“They don’t want it in their backyard don’t bring their garbage down to us,” Luzerne Township Supervisor Ted Kollar said.

First Energy says the coal ash is actually beneficial to the mine site and will neutralize acids that can pollute the ground water and streams, but the DEP says the plans have heightened their own concerns about the operation of the dump.

“Well, it means we’re going to be paying a lot more attention to what they’re doing and we want to know whatever it is that they’re doing, they’re doing it according to regulation and by the book,” Poister said.

But if the DEP denies First Energy’s permit, the energy company will have a huge problem: millions of tons of coal ash and nowhere to put it.

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