Environmental groups threaten to sue over Mansfield coal ash site

Environmental groups said May 30 that they plan to file suit against FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) over what they call the largest coal-ash pond in the United States – the 1,700-acre Little Blue Run impoundment site in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which serves FirstEnergy’s coal-fired Bruce Mansfield plant.

The litigation would be filed by Little Blue Regional Action Group, formerly known as Citizens Against Coal Ash, along with attorneys from the Environmental Integrity Project and Public Justice. According to the notice of intent to sue filed by the group, leaks, seeps, and direct discharges of toxic pollution from the Little Blue Run impoundment violate both federal (the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) and state (Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams) law.

The notice letter alleges that FirstEnergy has misrepresented the amount of toxic waste it is releasing from the impoundment in violation of federal right to know laws.

During the process of burning coal, FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield plant generates coal ash pollution and other waste, which it sends via a seven-mile pipeline to the nearby Little Blue Run impoundment site, the groups noted. About 60% of the coal ash pond is in Greene Township, Beaver County, Pa., and the rest of it is in Grant District, Hancock County, W.Va.

The Little Blue Run coal ash dump site is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “high hazard,” meaning a breach of the impoundment’s dam would cause “probable” loss of about 50,000 human lives, the groups said. Well over 20 billion gallons of coal ash are being held back from the Ohio River – a major drinking water source for downstream communities – by only an earth and rock dam, they added.

Lisa Widawsky Hallowell, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, said: “The nation’s largest coal ash surface impoundment – Little Blue Run – is also the nation’s poster child for poor management practices for disposal of toxic coal ash. There are better environmental requirements on the books in Pennsylvania yet FirstEnergy has managed to evade most of them for years, placing human lives and the environment in harm’s way. Local residents have banded together to finally seek justice and an end to the pollution in these quiet communities.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.