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Coal Ash Cleanup at Little Blue Run Requires Highest Bond Ever

Coal Ash Cleanup at Little Blue Run Requires Highest Bond Ever

By Richard Webster, Power-Cotchett Attorney, Environmental Enforcement Project 

The cleanup of the 1,000-acre Little Blue Run wet coal ash impoundment, the largest in the United States, took another step forward yesterday with the announcement that Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has approved the closure permit for the impoundment. 

The approved closure plan requires the impoundment to close at the end of 2016 and imposes a bond of $169 million, the highest cleanup bond the state has ever required for a waste management facility.  As we have explained, our notice letter threatening litigation about the contamination caused by Little Blue precipitated all of this action. Prior to that notice letter, the state had maintained for more than 30 years that Little Blue was not causing any serious contamination. 

This closure plan shows that unlined wet coal ash impoundments are inherently environmentally damaging and must be outlawed as an ongoing ash disposal method, because it causes ongoing groundwater pollution that is very expensive to address and adversely effects areas close to the impoundments.  

The huge damage caused by the recent spill from a smaller impoundment on the Dan  River in North Carolina and numerous  prior spills show that the resulting orphaned impoundments must be closed before they decay and fail. Coal plant operators are now reaping the costs that they thought they had avoided by using the cheapest possible disposal method that built up hidden liabilities for environmental damage over decades. 

Its time to pay the piper.