Monday, February 7, 2011

FirstEnergy Looks For New Ash Dump

The Little Blue Run coal ash site will reach its permanent capacity some time in 2016 or 2018 and that means Akron, Ohio based FirstEnergy is looking for a new location to place the coal ash generated by the Bruce Mansfield power plant in Greene Township, Beaver County. The Bruce Mansfield plant is the largest coal fired plant in Pennsylvania. First Energy Spokesperson Mark Durbin says they are working with regulators and the community to place a new facility nearby. He says they have had meetings with local elected officials and residents about building what he calls a “benefits package” for the community. “There is a benefit to FirstEnergy to have this new facility located where it is and we think the community should also have some type of benefit involved, so we are working with the community to try to present what we think is an offer and hopefully we will get some feedback and hopefully we can come to some type of agreement,” says Durbin. The value of that package is currently in the range of $15 million over the 20-28 year life span of the site. “It could be used for some help with property tax, maybe some other money could be used to help with municipal services in the region, maybe some of it could be used for the schools or 4-H clubs,” says Durbin.

The company picked up about $2.4 million dollars in residential, commercial and farmland last year in the hopes of using the land for the new dump. Durbin says the new facility will store the same ash, but it is a very different design. The current facility is what is known as a wet storage facility and the new facility will be a dry facility. That is the latest technology for ash storage and what current regulations call for, says Durbin.

When the Little Blue Run coal ash facility is closed it will be capped and covered. “The material that has been stored there over the years would be encased behind the dam and then it would be mulched over and vegetation would grow in,” says Durbin, “We would continue to monitor and test that facility for as long as it is around.” Durbin says eventually it could begin to look much like it did before the facility was opened.

The Bruce Mansfield plant in Shippingport has been listed as a major air polluter by state and federal regulators. Residents near the ash disposal site have voiced concerns over negative health and drinking water impacts but none have been proven. The current site has been in use for more than 30 years.

Correction 2/8/11: In at least one case, the Pennsylvania DEP found that the well of a local resident was negatively impacted by contamination from the Little Blue coal ash facility and FirstEnergy was required to provide drinking water to that home.

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