Akron’s FirstEnergy Corp. plans to phase out a 1,700-acre reservoir on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border as a repository for scrubber sludge and coal ash from its biggest coal-fired power plant.
Starting in 2017, the utility plans to send those materials by barge to La Belle, Pa., 97 miles away via the Ohio and Monongahela rivers, for a mine reclamation project.
In the meantime, wastes from the Bruce Mansfield Plant at Shippingport, Pa., will continue to be dumped into Little Blue Run in Greene Township in Pennsylvania’s Beaver County.
The 2,490-megawatt plant annually produces several million tons of scrubber sludge and coal ash.
FirstEnergy announced the new arrangement in a news release on Tuesday.
The company’s decision follows a consent decree finalized in December between FirstEnergy Generation LLC and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that requires the company to discontinue disposal of wet material at Little Blue Run, a residual waste impoundment, after Dec. 31, 2016. The utility was also fined $800,000.
The unlined impoundment has gotten 20 billion gallons of sludge since 1975. It is piped seven miles from the Mansfield plant. The impoundment next to the Ohio River is projected to be filled by 2016-2018.
“After conducting a detailed review of future disposal options beyond Little Blue Run, the decision was made to beneficially use this material for an existing mine reclamation project,” said James Lash, president of FirstEnergy Generation, in a company statement.
“This was an economic decision based on the costs of barging the material to a third-party site compared to permitting and constructing an expanded disposal facility near the existing Little Blue Run impoundment,” he said.
The materials will be “dewatered” and solidified at the Mansfield plant and then loaded onto barges for the trip to La Belle, south of Pittsburgh in Fayette County, said FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin.
Design of the dewatering facility is under way, and construction is expected to begin in the 2014-2015 time frame, he said.
The plan calls for 45 barges per day, he said.
FirstEnergy has negotiated an agreement with Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc. that will result in Mansfield waste materials being used at La Belle.
FirstEnergy needs approval from the DEP to designate the materials for beneficial use, and that is the next step, Durbin said.
Currently, waste materials from FirstEnergy’s Mitchell Power Station are being reused at the La Belle site.
About 450,000 tons per year of Mansfield waste materials are expected to continue to be converted to synthetic gypsum and sent across the street to the National Gypsum Plant for use in the manufacture of wallboard.
The Akron utility also informed the DEP and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it will withdraw previously submitted applications to expand Little Blue Run by constructing a new dry disposal facility adjacent to the impoundment.
Under the consent decree, FirstEnergy must submit a formal Little Blue Run closure plan no later than March 31.
That plan will provide details regarding future plans for the facility, including a study regarding potential future ground water impacts in and around the facility.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has become heavily involved in coal ash in the wake of a Tennessee Valley Authority dam at Harriman, Tenn., bursting in late 2008.
The fear is that toxic heavy metals in the ash could leach out of the unlined impoundments and contaminate surface and groundwater and that such impoundments can breach and cause floods, the EPA said.
Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains arsenic, mercury, cadmium, selenium, chromium, lead and nickel and other toxins filtered out by pollution-control equipment.
The EPA said there are 800 landfills and 100 impoundments to contain coal ash across the United States. The agency has not decided how to deal with coal ash.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.