Pennsylvania shuts down nation’s largest coal ash impoundment

by Guest Blogger

August 3, 2012

Greenpeace congratulates the hard work of the Little Blue Regional Action Groupand their success in demanding the closure of the nation’s largest coal ash impoundment in Pennsylvania. This is amazing news for the fight to leave coal behind and progress towards renewable energy. Guest blog from Little Blue Regional Action Group below gives more details on this historical victory.

Little Blue Regional Action Group (LBRAG) and their legal counsel, Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Public Justice are claiming victory at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) announcement of a major court filing made late July 27 by) that will result in the closure of Little Blue Run, the nations largest coal ash impoundment.

The state action filed the first-ever lawsuit against a coal ash dump operator for causing a potential imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment by operating the nations largest coal ash impoundment, Little Blue Run, which spans the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border.

The PA DEPs suit was filed with a consent decree that includes $800,000 in penalties and also mandates FirstEnergy to devise a plan to clean up contaminated groundwater surrounding the impoundment. It was filed 59 days after the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Public Justice gave notice that they would sue FirstEnergy, the owner of Little Blue Run, in 60-90 days for endangerment and other violations on behalf of Little Blue Regional Action Group, a non-profit corporation whose members are residents who live near the coal ash impoundment.

We believe this is the first time PA DEP or any regulator has formally recognized that pollution from coal ash ponds like Little Blue Run release pollutants that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to nearby residents and the environment, said Lisa Widawsky Hallowell, attorney for the EIP. The department is taking the concerns we raised seriously enough to file suit in federal court to protect residents from those dangers. Were looking forward to reviewing the consent decree and continuing our work to ensure that this site is promptly remediated and closed.

FirstEnergys Little Blue Run is the largest coal ash disposal pond in the nation, and the citizen groups had identified in their letter numerous releases of toxic pollutants like arsenic and selenium into both ground water and surface water. PA DEP has recognized that FirstEnergys disposal of wet coal ash into a huge unlined lagoon has caused major environmental problems, despite existing state regulations, said Public Justice. We are pleased that PA DEP has recognized the problems and started to make FirstEnergy solve them, said Power-Cotchett Attorney Richard Webster.

FirstEnergy has disposed of more than 20 billion gallons of coal ash at Little Blue Run, the site which has no liner and has never been covered to prevent the release of toxic pollutants. The impoundment sits on the banks of the Ohio River, a drinking water source for millions of people.

The board of directors for LBRAG have issued the following statement: We appreciate that the PA DEP appears to be taking action to stop FirstEnergy from continuing to pollute our community, and we are going to continue to work to ensure that all current sources of pollution from this site are cleaned up and all future contamination is prevented.

Let’s keep the momentum going for Pennsylvania and surrounding areas-we’re on the right track.

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