Environmental groups ask DEP to reject Hatfield’s Ferry landfill plan

June 4, 2015
FirstEnergy Corp’s Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station on the banks of the Monongahela River. - Bob Niedbala/ObserverRreporter

WAYNESBURG – Two environmental groups asked the state Department of Environmental Protection to deny FirstEnergy’s request for a permit revision to allow it to use the landfill at its closed Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant in Monongahela Township to dispose of coal ash from a Beaver County power plant.

Earthjustice and Sierra Club submitted a letter to DEP Tuesday criticizing FirstEnergy’s plan to use the 107-acre coal ash landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry to dispose of ash from the company’s Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in Shippingport.

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

Residents who attended a DEP public hearing May 21 on the permit revision in the Carmichaels High School auditorium all spoke against the plan.

“This proposal is another toxic insult to neighbors in Greene and Fayette counties,” Earthjustice attorney Charles McPhedran said in a news release. “Pennsylvania DEP must deny the permit.”

In their letter, the two groups threatened to file a lawsuit if DEP fails to reject FirstEnergy’s permit revision.

“Before DEP even considers allowing FirstEnergy to dump more dangerous ash at this site, the company needs to clean up the existing mess,” said Tom Schuster of Sierra Club. “We’ve known about this pollution for years and it still hasn’t been cleaned up, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in FirstEnergy.”

Speaking at the public hearing, Schuster said pollution problems at the Hatfield’s Ferry landfill already are pervasive. Well monitoring indicated arsenic and other pollutants migrated from the site, he said.

A DEP official at the hearing said Schuster was referring to an older part of the landfill that is unlined and is no longer in use. That portion of the landfill continues to be monitored, he said.

The proposed permit revision is only for the new part of the landfill, which is a “state-of-the-art facility using the most up-to-date engineering standards,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton said Thursday. The landfill has a synthetic liner, a water treatment system and monitoring wells, she said.

DEP spokesman John Poister acknowledged Thursday the department received the letter from the groups.

“We are going to consider it along with the other comments we received during the public comment period,” he said.

The comment period ended Wednesday and the application is now under review, Poister 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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