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Tr-Ash Talk: “Charleston, We Have A Problem”

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14 March 2012, 8:09 AM
McKinley's “urgent” request to view leaks at nation’s largest coal ash pond
Aerial view of the Little Blue Run coal ash storage reservoir in Beaver County

Has Rep. David McKinley had a change of heart?  In a letter dated March 8, 2012, the primary author of EPA- bashing HR 2273 and best friend of coal ash, McKinley (R, WV) wrote Secretary Randy Huffman, head of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, to request that he accompany him on a visit to Chester, WV, at the southeastern edge of the massive Little Blue Run coal ash pond.  The goal of the urgent request is to assess the effectiveness of a new pumping system, which was designed to address the leaks in the pond that have plagued Chester residents for years.

The Little Blue Run coal ash pond is the largest in the nation, spanning two states and bordering a third, covering approximately 1,000 acres (over 1.5 square miles), and held back by a 40-story high hazard dam. The pond is 30 times larger than the TVA pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant, which burst in December 2008 and flooded 300 acres with 1 billion gallons of toxic sludge.  Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimates that a failure of the Little Blue dam would take the lives of 50,000 people.

It is undoubtedly frightening for Chester residents to live with gushing leaks from the side of Little Blue- leaks that culminate in a discharge clocked at a maximum of 775 gallons per minute, a volume greater than the combined flow from seven fire truck hoses.  The ground and basements of homes on the West Virginia side of the impoundment are inundated with coal ash-contaminated water.  First Energy, the owner of the coal ash pond, recently installed a new pumping system, but problems persist.  

Thus, the congressman asked for the WVDEP’s “urgent attention.” It’s about time.  Almost a year ago, Chester resident Curt Havens testified before a Congressional Subcommittee on a bill written by Rep. McKinley.  The bill would remove the EPA’s authority to regulate coal ash and block national standards to phase out deadly ponds like Little Blue.  

At last April’s hearing,  Havens described how the toxic ash impoundment was gushing water contaminated with cadmium, a cancer-causing metal, near his home.  He also explained to Rep. McKinley and the subcommittee that he had thyroid cancer and his wife has thyroid disease—illnesses caused by cadmium exposure.

The matter is certainly urgent.  We look forward to the presence of Rep. McKinley and Secretary Huffman—to view the leaks and to answer questions from those living daily with this needless threat to their health, community and livelihood.


Dear West Virginians

I know the leaks from Little Blue Run coal ash pond is vitally important and the sense of urgency to do something about it is great, but lets not discount the impact this coal ash pond has on the health and welfare of West Virginians who live next to Little Blue.
At a time in our lives when we are supposed to be relaxing and trying to enjoy the fruits of our labor over the past 40 years, we find ourselves in the biggest battle for our lives and lifestyle we’ve ever had. We are overly concerned with each minor health issue, fearing our worst nightmares will come true and each little ache or pain will turn out to be cancer.

Type of Impact Annual Incidence

Deaths 69
Heart Attacks 110
Asthma Attacks 1,000
Hospital Admissions 52
Chronic Bronchitis 40
Asthma ER Visits 50

Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants. The table illustrates the Deaths and diseases attributable to fine particle pollution from Bruce Mansfield Power Station. Try putting a monetary figure to this table and calculate what Little Blue is costing our area in unnecessary health incidences. My family lives 1093 feet from Little Blue and the coal ash, don’t you think we are concerned how this affects our lives on a daily basis.

The Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Pennsylvania and West Virginia, along with 33 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report specifically mentioned Pennsylvania based Bruce Mansfield Power Station as having groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste. We live 1093 feet from Little Blue and the water on my property is monitored monthly by both the Pennsylvania and West Virginia DEP. If there is nothing to be concerned with then why am I being monitored? First Energy is now in the midst of excavating and constructing collection stations next to my property in an attempt to try and contain the seepage that First Energy admits comes from Little Blue.

Ask yourself the following questions:

How has my family’s health been affected by Little Blue and Coal Ash?
Will there be residual health effects years later attributable to Coal Ash?
Have my grandchildren been exposed and should I worry?
What contaminants are in the air around my home?
What hazards are there that we don’t even know about yet?
How much has my property value suffered?
What if anything will First Energy do to make it right?
How much worse will the problem get?
When will I get sick?

People always ask, how has this affected you? We live 1093 feet from Little Blue and the Coal Ash, given the above, how could it not affect me and my family.

We are the 99% suffering at the hands of the 1%.

Richard S Fineman

I would move in a bubble house the rest of my life

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