Earthjustice and the Sierra Club have filed a legal settlement filed with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board to address a longstanding source of toxic coal combustion pollution.
In 2015, Earthjustice challenged permits issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the Hatfield’s Ferry Landfill. Representing the Sierra Club, Earthjustice argued that DEP’s permits failed to meet basic requirements of state law, including the Solid Waste Management Act and the Clean Streams Law. Earthjustice also argued that the bond to cover pollution cleanup wasn’t big enough to cover environmental damage.
The landfill is located near the Monongahela River and discharges effluent upstream of many drinking water intakes, including the Carmichaels Water Authority.
In 2015, the DEP approved a so-called “minor modification” of FirstEnergy’s landfill dumping permit.
“Nothing about this new permit was ‘minor’,” said Earthjustice attorney Charles McPhedran. “It was a major change that allowed the company to dump waste from a completely new source. DEP had to require better safeguards for the public.”
Coal combustion waste is the toxic waste left over from coal-burning power plants. For decades, it was just dumped into giant pits, where toxins can seep into water and soil, and blow into the air, causing respiratory problems. Coal combustion waste is filled with some of some of the deadliest toxins known to man, including arsenic, lead, mercury and hexavalent chromium. The toxics in coal plant waste raise cancer risk, make fish unsafe to eat, and can inflict lasting brain damage on children. The toxics are linked to heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
The legal settlement provides for more protective measures at the landfill. FirstEnergy agreed to apply for new state permits regarding remedies to contain pollution on site, as well as posting an adequate bond to cover pollution cleanup.
FirstEnergy has shipped no waste from the Bruce Mansfield plant to the landfill since the litigation began and will not ship waste until at least December 1, 2017.
“This settlement offers better protections, but the real solution is to transition to renewable energy,” said McPhedran. “Wind and solar power are cleaner and require no coal ash landfills at all.”
Charles McPhedran, Earthjustice, (215) 717-4521 (office) (215) 206-0352 (cell)