DEP OKs coal ash permit

First Energy Corp’s Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station on the banks of the Monongahela River.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved a permit modification allowing First Energy to dispose of coal ash from a Beaver County power plant at the landfill of the closed Hatfield’s Ferry Power Plant in Greene County.

DEP issued the minor modification two weeks ago to allow First Energy to use the 107-acre coal ash landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry in Monongahela Township to dump coal combustion materials from its Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in Shippingport.

First Energy plans to ship the material, which includes coal ash and scrubber waste, more than 100 miles by barge up the Ohio and Monongahela rivers from Bruce Mansfield to Hatfield’s Ferry.

The company is required under a consent agreement with DEP to close the landfill at Bruce Mansfield, known as Little Blue Run, by the end of 2016 and says it must have a place to dispose of the coal ash to keep the power plant operating.

The company’s application was “investigated thoroughly” by DEP before the modification was granted, DEP spokesman John Poister said Tuesday. The Hatfield’s Ferry landfill “meets all our regulations and has room to handle the material from Bruce Mansfield,” he said.

Most who attended a DEP public meeting on the plan on May 21 at the Carmichaels Area High School auditorium spoke against First Energy’s plan to use the site for additional coal ash dumping.

One concern mentioned at the meeting, involving dust that may be created during transportation of the materials by barge, has been addressed as a condition of the permit approval, Poister said.

The permit requires barges be covered, enclosed, treated or sealed to prevent dust, according to the permit modification. Materials that will be transported to the landfill, which include fly ash, bottom ash and materials collected from Bruce Mansfield’s scrubber system, are not considered hazardous by either DEP or the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The landfill at Hatfield’s has a double synthetic liner, leachate and storm water collection systems and 14 monitoring wells around the site.

“We have safely managed coal combustion materials at the lined, state-of-the-art site (at Hatfield’s Ferry) since 2008,” First Energy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton said. “We’ve had a strong operating record and meet or exceed all state and federal requirements.”

The landfill will be accepting the same material from Bruce Mansfield it had received from Hatfield’s Ferry when Hatfield’s Ferry was in operation, she said. The company closed Hatfield’s Ferry in October 2013.

Walton said the company will not begin using the landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry until the beginning of 2017.

The ash will be unloaded from barges, about six a day, and transported by truck to the landfill by private road. The landfill at Hatfield’s Ferry has enough space to accept waste from Bruce Mansfield for five to seven years, Walton said.

Bruce Mansfield produces about 8,500 tons of coal combustion materials a day. Not all of that will be shipped to Hatfield’s Ferry. Some of it also is used to make wallboard and is used on mine reclamation projects, the company said.

Following the May meeting, the Sierra Club and several other environmental groups threatened to file a lawsuit if DEP approved permit revision.

Tom Shuster, of the Sierra Club, said Tuesday that attorneys are currently reviewing the permit approval. The group opposes the plan because of existing environmental problems at Hatfield’s Ferry. Pollutants have continued to leak from portions of the site, Shuster said.

“Before they dispose of new materials at the site containing hazardous components we think they should address the ongoing problems,” he said.

DEP previously said the club’s concerns focus on an older, unlined portion of the landfill that is no longer in use. The permit modification for the Bruce Mansfield waste, however, is only for the area of the landfill that is lined and contains storm water and leachate collection systems.

Ken Dufalla, president of the Greene County Izaak Walton League, said his group also opposes the plan. Coal ash is known to contain heavy metals including arsenic, chromium and lead, he said.

“They say it’s safe, but it’s not,” Dufalla said.

He spoke of the community of LaBelle, where there is a large coal ash landfill and where 42 percent of the population has some form of cancer.

The permit approval also allows the company to bring bottom ash to the site from the Fort Martin Power Plant that is only to be used as a protective cover for the liner system.

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