Pennsylvania orders closure of FirstEnergy’s Mansfield coal waste area

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on April 3 issued a closure permit to FirstEnergy Generation LLC that imposes a mandatory closure plan for the Little Blue Run Impoundment, which serves the coal-fired Bruce Mansfield power plant. 

The plan requires the company to complete all work associated with closing the site by Dec. 31, 2028, three years earlier than proposed by the company. 

This FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) subsidiary must end disposal of waste into the impoundment by Dec. 31, 2016, and will begin capping activities in some areas in 2015, the agency noted. The closure permit requires the company to increase the groundwater and surface water monitoring points from 74 monitoring points to over 300, implement controls for noise, odors and particulate emissions, conduct quarterly seep reconnaissance, institute corrective actions when contaminated seeps are found, pursue groundwater remediation measures and conduct post-closure monitoring and maintenance for as long as environmental problems remain at the site.

FirstEnergy has posted a financial assurance bond of more than $169m, the largest bond for a waste management facility ever required by DEP, to ensure that all work is properly completed. Funds will be held by DEP until no further post-closure activities or monitoring are needed for the site.

DEP said it is requiring the company to install an impermeable geomembrane liner over the waste, then a cushion geotextile layer to protect the liner, a one-foot thick layer of soil, and a vegetative cover. The final elevation of the cover will be a gradual grade to eliminate infiltration into the waste and ensure that stormwater remains uncontaminated. Also, the company will reduce standing liquid behind the dam from the 214-acre pool to 100 acres to create a drainage area behind the dam.

Monitoring data from the site began to pick up changes in groundwater attributable to the impoundment that required a complete groundwater assessment in January 2011. The closure permit approves specific measures to address the contamination. Sulfates, sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride and arsenic in varying amounts were detected in groundwater near the impoundment.

“The process to close the largest coal combustion waste disposal impoundment in the country was strenuous and thorough, involving citizens, who provided numerous comments, DEP staff and FirstEnergy,” said DEP official Mike Forbeck.

The closure permit is in accord with a consent decree entered by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2012 that outlined steps that FirstEnergy would take to cease waste disposal, close the impoundment, and offer to make public drinking water available to several residents living near the impoundment.

The Little Blue Run Impoundment is located in Greene Township, Beaver County. It covers 975 acres in a site located south of the Ohio River at the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border and consists of a 420-foot rock and earthen dam with an impermeable core, and 135,420,000 cubic yards of capacity for the disposal of coal combustion byproducts generated by the Bruce Mansfield power plant.

The scrubber-equipped, 2,490-MW Bruce Mansfield plant is the largest electric power plant in Pennsylvania. FirstEnergy has said with Little Blue Run closed, it will barge waste materials from the power plant to other locations, including for use in coal mine reclamation.

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.