“Little” Blue Run Impoundment Full of Coal Power Plant Wastes

by admin on June 1, 2022

Coal waste from Bruce Mansfield plant was pumped to Little Blue Run

Coal Waste in the United States Continues to Accumulate

From an Article of Global Energy Monitor, June 2019
Coal Ash: One Valley’s Tale

A January 2009 study by The New York Times following the enormous TVA coal ash spill found that there are more than 1,300 surface impoundments across the U.S. containing coal waste, with some sites as large as 1,500 acres. Also in January 2009, an Associated Press study found that 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to the one that ruptured at Kingston Fossil Plant. The states with the most storage in coal ash in ponds are Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. The AP’s analysis found that in 2005, 721 power plants generating at least 100 MW of electricity produced 95.8 million tons of coal ash, about 20 percent of which – or almost 20 million tons – ended up in surface ponds. The rest of the ash winds up in landfills or is sold for other uses. In June 2009, EPA released its list of 44 “high hazard potential” coal waste sites, which included 12 sites in North Carolina, 9 in Arizona, 6 in Kentucky, 6 in Ohio, and 4 in West Virginia.

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination
In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Pennsylvania, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites. The report mentioned Pennsylvania based Bruce Mansfield Power Station and Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station as both having groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.

Proposed expansion of Blue Run Waste Site
In Feb. 2011, FirstEnergy said it wants to expand the Bruce Mansfield Power Station Little Blue Run Dam coal ash site for the Bruce Mansfield Power Station, as the waste site is nearing capacity. The company wants to pay Greene Township, Beaver County, for the right to dump more coal waste on adjacent land it bought for $2.4 million in 2010. The surface impoundment is on the EPA’s official June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event. The site has also been found to be contaminating groundwater.

FirstEnergy Corp. has offered Greene Township $15 million to embrace plans for the new 264-acre coal-ash disposal impoundment. Township Secretary Sandra J. Wright said the town will not consider the offer until the company submits information about the potential harms it may pose to the community: “The supervisors would have to change the zoning from agriculture to industrial, but the residents want to keep the rural character of the township.” FirstEnergy has yet to submit plans for the coal ash disposal site to the township, which is along the West Virginia border in the southwestern portion of the county. “We’re constantly getting people calling us to complain about odors and this and that” related to Little Blue, Ms. Wright said. FirstEnergy’s 2,375-megawatt Bruce Mansfield Power Station in nearby Shippingport has dumped 100 million tons of fly ash at the site produced from coal burning and calcium sulfate collected by the plant’s pollution control devices. Little Blue, once a cobalt-blue lake, is 400 feet deep and nearly filled to the top with waste from coal burning. The former owner of the power plant created the impoundment 35 years ago by building a 400-foot-high dam across Little Blue Run near its confluence with the Ohio River

Concerned residents and the Environmental Integrity Project, a national environmental group, say the unlined waste site poses risks of heavy metal contamination of well water. Continuing debate over potential environmental and health risks from Little Blue was detailed in the Post-Gazette’s “Mapping Mortality” series published in December. In that series, the Post-Gazette’s ecological study of mortality rates for heart and respiratory disease and lung cancer revealed elevated rates for the combined area of Greene Township, Hookstown and Georgetown. Heart disease deaths there were 46 percent higher than the national rate. The total of 88 deaths from all three diseases also was 42 percent higher than the predicted number of 62 deaths, based on national rates from 2000 through 2008. A community survey showed overwhelming opposition to the waste expansion. The township will await submission of a final plan before making further comment.

Groups file lawsuit

On May 30, 2012, Little Blue Run Regional Action Group, a coalition of residents living near the impoundment, filed a lawsuit against utility company FirstEnergy, charging in their notice of intent that FirstEnergy violated state laws by exceeding pollution limits, and federal laws by failing to disclose toxic releases.

On July 27, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) filed the first-ever lawsuit against a coal ash dump operator for causing a potential “imminent and substantial endangerment” to human health and the environment. The PA DEP’s suit was filed with a consent decree that includes $800,000 in penalties and also mandates FirstEnergy to devise a plan to clean up contaminated groundwater surrounding the impoundment.

Once a 2,490 MW coal-fired power plant, the site was closed by its former owner, FirstEnergy Corporation, in 2019, approximately two years ahead of schedule.


Bruce Mansfield Power Plant CLOSED, on Ohio River in Beaver County, Penna.

The Bruce Mansfield Power Plant (BMPP) is a large industrial property under single ownership along the Ohio River in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. It is approximately 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and 17 miles from the Pittsburgh International Airport. Once a 2,490 MW coal-fired power plant, the site was closed by its former owner, FirstEnergy Corporation, in 2019. The Bruce Mansfield Power Plant property is comprised of 12 parcels totaling approximately 477 acres.

The site has several assets that are likely to be attractive to developers. The CSX railroad track that runs through the property along the riverbank has a connection to the CSX mainline via an 8-mile-long rail spur and features spurs owned by the BMPP site that can be used for shipping and receiving goods. The property has barge docking and conveyor/overhead pipe unloading infrastructure in place along the river.

There is an electrical switchyard located within the site boundaries that could support redevelopment that includes a new form of generation or can be used by a large electricity consumer that chooses to locate on the site. Redevelopment opportunities for the site could include energy production, manufacturing, or large industrial uses. Read more about the property in our Bruce Mansfield Power Plant Playbook for an in-depth look at the site attributes and the possible redevelopment strategies that have been researched for the site.


NOTE ~ Over 50% of the electricity generation in Pennsylvania is from natural gas while less than 10% is from coal. This is still producing far too much carbon dioxide and other GHG. A continuing effort is definitely needed on energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy sources as solar farms and wind turbine facilities. Duane Nichols

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