West Virginia Residents Sue Over Little Blue Run’s Smelly Waste Site

A group of West Virginia residents have sued FirstEnergy Corp. over pollution, smells, contamination and alleged property damage from a coal waste dump, which the company has agreed to shut down because of arsenic, sulfates and other contaminates leaking into the drinking water.

Neighbors of the Little Blue Run coal waste site want to be compensated for the awful stench, seepage and alleged property damage the huge waste site has caused.

The 53 neighbors of West Virginia’s Hancock County filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Wheeling, claiming that FirstEnergy Corp.’s coal ash dump is spilling into many aspects of their lives and will continue even after a judicially sanctioned closure plan takes effect in three years. The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $75,000 for each plaintiff.

Little Blue Run is the largest, man-made, unlined surface impoundment in the country, which carries contaminated water to nearby properties. According to the lawsuit, the 20 billion gallons of coal ash that have flowed into Little Blue Run contain arsenic, which has contaminated the ground water, on which residents depend.

In addition to the drinking water problems, neighbors complain that their yards are constantly being swamped with water, shifting their foundations and causing the growth of mold. It has also produced a hydrogen sulfide smell that has decreased property values, plaintiffs said.

The plaintiffs accuse FirstEnergy of negligence and “reckless, willful and wanton conduct,” in creating the situation.

Closure will begin sometime in 2017 with completion in 2032, according to the complaint. The suit contends that contaminates in the ash slurry piped to the site from the Bruce Mansfield power plant in Shippingport will be a factor for hundreds of years.

The 1,700-acre Little Blue Run was built by FirstEnergy in 1974. At that time, slurry dumps did not need to have linings.

The complaint said that FirstEnergy installed a pumping station “in an attempt to pump its contaminants back into the impoundment,” but it hasn’t worked. It was stated in the suit that residents live in fear that a breach of the dam that divides the dump from the Ohio River could potentially cause loss of lives, endangering about 50,000 people.

Last year U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer approved a consent decree between Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and FirstEnergy, since the dump had been subject to several enforcement actions. It requires monitoring of waste that seeps onto properties within three-quarters of a mile of the dump, among other measures.

“There is an extensive water quality monitoring program in place,” said Stephanie Walton, a spokeswoman for FirstEnergy.

After the December 31, 2016 shutdown of the pipeline, the company plans to let the waste harden, and then cover it with layers of high density plastic, cloth and soil. That process could take more than15 years after the company stops dumping there, company officials have said. “It will look like a big field,” she said.

Walton would not discuss the company’s plans for disposing of the slurry after 2016, saying plans were not final. The Post-Gazette reported that it might be transported by barge to an unlined ash disposal site at LaBelle, Fayette County.

The plaintiffs want compensatory and punitive damages for what they call negligence by FirstEnergy in not remediating the site. They accuse FirstEnergy of trespassing by releasing hazardous materials onto their properties and being a nuisance.

For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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