Plans to reopen the landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant opposed

May 21, 2015
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Bob Niedbala/Observer-Reporter
David Hoone of First Energy explains the company’s plan to ship coal ash from a plant in Beaver County to the landfill at the closed Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant. Order a Print
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Bob Niedbala/Observer-Reporter
John Poister, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, addressed the audience at a meeting on First Energy’s plan to ship coal ash from a plant in Beaver County to the landfill at the closed Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant. Order a Print

CARMICHAELS – Plans by First Energy Corp. to use the coal ash landfill at its closed Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant in Monongahela Township to dispose of ash from its power plant in Beaver County did not receive a welcome response at a public meeting on the plan Thursday.

About 80 people attended the meeting, held by the state Department of Environmental Protection, on First Energy’s request for a minor permit revision to allow it to use the 107-acre landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry to dispose of coal ash from the company’s Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in Shippingport.

The company is looking for a place to dump coal ash from Bruce Mansfield because the plant’s existing landfill, known as Little Blue Run, must be closed by the end of 2016 under a DEP consent agreement. First Energy plans to ship the material more than 100 miles by river barge to the Hatfield’s Ferry site.

“I don’t want this in my backyard,” said Ken Dufalla, president of the Greene County Izaak Walton League and one of the many who spoke against the plan. “If you think it’s so safe, put it in your backyard.”

Fly ash is known to contain heavy metals including arsenic and lead, Dufalla said. The Hatfield’s Ferry landfill is upriver from a number of public water system’s water intakes and several small towns are downwind of the site “and suffer the effects of its dust,” he said.

Dufalla said his group also worked closely with the community of LaBelle, where there is a large coal ash landfill and where 42 percent of the people have some form of cancer. “How much more evidence does anyone need to understand this fly ash is a killer?” he asked.

David Hoone, a First Energy waste management supervisor, gave a presentation on the company’s plan and referred to the landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry as “state-of-the-art.”

The landfill has a synthetic liner, a leachate collection system and a system of 14 monitoring wells around the site, he said. The ash will be unloaded from barges, up to six a day, and transported by truck to the landfill by private road.

The ash, comprised of fly ash, bottom ash and materials collected from the Bruce Mansfield scrubber system, is not considered a hazardous material either by DEP or the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Hoone said.

Mike Forbeck of DEP also noted the landfill will be accepting the same material from Bruce Mansfield it had received from Hatfield’s Ferry when it was in operation.

The material must undergo “rigorous chemical and physical analysis before it is accepted at this facility,” he said. Forbeck noted the landfill is “double lined” and said DEP has never had an incident of leaks at such a site.

Tom Shuster of the Sierra Club said, however, pollution problems at the Hatfield’s Ferry landfill already are pervasive. Well monitoring has indicated arsenic and other pollutants have migrated from the site, he said. He asked DEP what steps it has taken to address those problems.

An older part of the landfill no longer in use and apparently unlined had covered a former strip mine site, Forbeck said. Part of that area has been capped and it continues to be monitored, he said.

The meeting drew several people from LaBelle, including Jeremy Ulery, who spoke of the problems in his community.

For 20 days this year, Ulery said, his son had missed school because he was sick with respiratory problems. His daughter, he added, had been born with severe eczema. “It’s funny,” Ulery said, “you paint (your house) white in LaBelle and, within a month, it’s gray.”

Ulery questioned why companies always place these dumps “in areas nobody knows about” and not in places like Allegheny County, and urged people to stand up against the plan, or else “the same thing that happened there (in Labelle) is going to happen here.”

DEP will continue to accept comments on the plan until June 2. Forbeck noted the permit revision was considered minor because the same materials will be disposed at the site as before, when Hatfield’s Ferry was in operation. Typically, DEP does not hold meetings on minor revisions, he said. However, it felt it was important to keep the community informed and receive its comments, he said.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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