Indiana Township residents complain of fly ash, other irritants from Cheswick plant

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Specialists from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department have begun work to address residents’ health concerns about dust from trucks carrying fly ash from the electric plant in Cheswick to a dump site at the top of LeFever Hill Road in Indiana Township.

“On Friday, our DEP project manager, Mike Forbeck, issued assignments to follow up on residents’ concerns,” said John Poister, DEP community relations coordinator.

Neighbors in the vicinity of the waste site complained for nearly two hours last Thursday night to representatives from the DEP and NRG Power Midwest about the dust. 

Air and water quality as well as noise and traffic safety were among issues raised. The meeting was called by the township after NRG applied for a permit to add to the dumped materials waste from a recently completed construction project at the plant.

Residents have raised concerns that the construction waste could contain the toxins arsenic, cobalt and possibly boron. Following the meeting, DEP officials addressed the residents’ fly ash concerns before granting the permit to dump the construction materials.

In September, Jeff Curti, Indiana code enforcement and zoning officer, wrote to the DEP regarding NRG's application to dump construction materials at the site and about resident concerns about the effects of potential toxins on well water and air quality and about hours of operation, truck traffic and site security. He also said residents were concerned about airborne fly ash dust.  In the letter, the township offered to be host to a meeting between residents and the state to discuss their concerns.

Mr. Curti said NRG officials also have been working on their end of the problem. He said Mark Baird, NRG director of external affairs, contacted him the day after the meeting.

“He said he had a conference with the officials at the electric plant about the dust problem and the need for a plan to alleviate the problem,” Mr. Curti said of his conversation with Mr. Baird.

Jim Thompson, department director of environmental programs for the Allegheny County Health Department said: “To tell the truth, we have not been receiving complaints about fly ash in the community. Friday was the first time we were made aware of it.”

He said his department has met with DEP officials already. “We’re assessing the situation and have sent an inspector to determine if we need to put a dust fall monitor in the area.”

Rita Michel, freelance writer,

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