Group plans to sue over Fayette coal ash dump
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The Citizens Coal Council has filed notice of its intent to sue the owner of a coal ash disposal site along the Monongahela River in Fayette County, alleging it has polluted ground water and endangers public health.
The 360-acre site, located in La Belle and owned and operated by Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc., has been used to dispose of hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash from FirstEnergy Corp.'s Mitchell power plant and GenOn Energy's Elrama power plant, both in Washington County.
The notice, required by environmental laws 60 to 90 days prior to filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, says operations at the Canestrale site create dust pollution that blows onto nearby properties.
"Citizens living near mine activities should not have to pay the price when operators don't live up to their responsibilities and comply with environmental laws," Aimee Erickson, Citizens Coal Council executive director, said Wednesday. "Dumping toxic coal ash into an unlined site like this one is not a solution but rather another dangerous problem for the surrounding communities."
Coal ash dust contains such toxins as antimony, arsenic, chromium and lead and fine airborne particles that can be absorbed by human lungs and hearts and cause serious health problems, according to the notice.
William Gorton, an attorney representing Mr. Canestrale, said the 15-page notice presented "unsubstantiated allegations" and added that the disposal site is operating according to a consent agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection to stabilize and reclaim the property.
"What Canestrale is doing is in compliance with all permits and the site is highly engineered and regulated," Mr. Gorton said.
The notice also states the unlined site is leaking aluminum, manganese, sulfates, and total dissolved solids at levels exceeding Pennsylvania drinking water standards, and is polluting streams.
The notice alleges violations of Pennsylvania's Clean Streams Law, Air Pollution Control Act, and the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act, and the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Clean Air Act.
In January, FirstEnergy announced plans to ship more than 3 million tons of coal ash and smokestack scrubber waste from its Bruce Mansfield coal-fired power plant in Shippingport to the unlined ash disposal site at La Belle each year beginning in 2016.
The Akron, Ohio-based electric utility plans to ship the coal ash via barge 96 miles up the Ohio and Monongahela rivers.
First Published March 15, 2013 12:00 am