EIP Objects to Weak Permit for Nation's Largest Ash Waste Pond

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and allies today objected to a proposal by West Virginia officials to allow toxic pollutants to continue to flow from the nation’s largest coal ash waste pond into the Ohio River and tributaries.

EIP, on behalf of the Little Blue Regional Action Group and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, objected to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (“WVDEP”) proposed permit for FirstEnergy’s Little Blue Run Disposal Impoundment because the permit would allow  discharges to flow, untreated, into the waterways.

In a letter sent to WVDEP today (July 17, 2015), the groups criticized the agency’s proposal for failing to protect health and the environment in West Virginia from the toxic constituents in coal ash that are already known to be leaking out of the Little Blue Run impoundment at levels dangerous to health and wildlife.  Specifically:

1) The draft water pollution control permit includes a two-year “interim” compliance period whereby FirstEnergy would not have to comply with any numeric limits for 20 toxic coal ash pollutants (Aluminum, Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chloride, Copper, Cyanide, Fluoride, Hexavalent Chromium, Iron, Lead, Manganese, Mercury, Nickel, Selenium, Silver, Thallium, and Zinc), meaning untreated wastewaters from the Impoundment would be able to be released from 14 different pipes without restrictions on pollution for these pollutants; and

2) WV DEP failed to comply with federal and state laws that require them to use their best professional judgment to set limits on coal ash pollution that reflect the “best available technology.”

The Ohio River is a drinking water source for about 3 million people, and more than 25 million people live in the Ohio River Basin, with many more potentially using and enjoying this waterway and its tributaries.

This is the first time the WV DEP would be issuing a permit for this coal ash waste pond, as the agency had previously agreed to defer permitting of this impoundment’s discharges to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. (The waste pond strattles the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia)  EIP had previously sent a notice of intent to sue FirstEnergy for pollution from this Impoundment in 2012, which resulted in the Pennsylvania DEP filing its own lawsuit against the company that requires the company to cease dumping coal ash there by 2016. The Little Blue Run impoundment has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a “proven” coal ash damage case because concentrations of arsenic and other hazardous pollutants leaking into ground and surface waters have already exceeded safe levels.

To read a copy of the letter that EIP sent to the WVDEP, click here.