First Energy plans to dump coal ash at Hatfield’s Ferry landfill

The state Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public meeting next month on First Energy's plan to ship coal ash from Beaver County to a landfill at the closed Hatfield's Ferry Power Plant.

A view of the Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station in Monongahela Township before it closed in October 2013. First Energy wants to use a landfill located near the power plant to store coal ash and scrubber byproducts from the Bruce Mansfield Power Station in Beaver County. Photo:Bob Niedbala/Observer-Reporter

CARMICHAELS – First Energy Corp. is proposing to ship coal ash and power plant scrubber waste by barge up the Ohio and Monongahela rivers from a Beaver County power plant to the landfill of the now-closed Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station in Greene County.

The company has applied to the state Department of Environmental Protection for an amended permit to use the 107-acre Hatfield’s Ferry landfill in Monongahela Township to dispose of “coal combustion byproducts” from its Bruce Mansfield plant in Shippingport, DEP spokesman John Poister said.

The DEP will hold a public meeting on the company’s application from 6 to 8 p.m. May 21 at Carmichaels Area High School auditorium. The meeting will be attended by a number of DEP personnel and include a question-and-answer session.

First Energy closed its 1,710-megawatt Hatfield’s Ferry power plant in October 2013, citing weak demand, low prices and the cost of bringing the plant into compliance with environmental regulations. The company is now considering using the landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry to dispose of coal combustion byproducts from its 2,490-megawatt Bruce Mansfield plant, First Energy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton said. The material includes coal ash as well as byproducts from Bruce Mansfield’s scrubbers.

Under a consent agreement with DEP, First Energy has agreed to close Bruce Mansfield’s landfill known as Little Blue Run by the end of 2016, Walton said.

“We are currently pursuing a variety of options for reuse or disposal of Bruce Mansfield’s coal combustion byproduct,” she said. That is necessary to allow the Bruce Mansfield plant to continue to operate, she said.

First Energy earlier proposed using an ash disposal site at LaBelle, Fayette County. But because permitting for the site has taken longer than expected, the company decided to explore other options, including reopening the Hatfield’s Ferry landfill, Walton said.

First Energy has not determined how much of the material would be shipped to Hatfield’s Ferry, Walton said. Bruce Mansfield produces about 8,500 tons of coal combustion materials a day. Some of the material could go to other sites, Walton said. The material also is used to make wallboard and is used on mine reclamation projects, she said.

According to Poister, the landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry is lined and meets all the requirements of both DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“We consider it a modern facility,” he said. “We have no reported problems with that site ... It’s a problem-free site.”

Coal combustion byproducts from coal-fired power plants are not listed as hazardous material by either the state or EPA, Poister said.

However, Patrick Grenter, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, said coal combustion byproducts are “laden” with heavy metals and other chemicals that have been shown to impact human health and the environment.

“This is just another example of First Energy trying to ship waste from Bruce Mansfield to other communities,” he said.

He added that it illustrates the company’s “inability to manage its waste.” Grenter said he is also concerned about how safe it might be to ship the materials by barge.

In addition, he said, Greene County and surrounding areas already have a “large amount of legacy pollution” from coal mining and other industries.

“They will be adding to that,” he said.