SHIPPINGPORT, PA — “Little Blue Run’s operator, FirstEnergy, an electricity company based in Akron, Ohio, agreed to develop a plan to shut down the facility in a consent decree filed July 27 in federal court. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) characterized its agreement with FirstEnergy as a proactive move, to ensure the site “will not create an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.” But for years, neighbors have complained about the site’s impact on land, air, and water, detailing the site history and their woes, for example, at a 2010 federal hearing on whether the U.S. government should step in and regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste.
Environmentalists praised the plan to shut down the 1,700-acre (688-hectare) Little Blue Run, saying it was the first time a regulatory agency has taken such aggressive action on a coal ash pond. But the larger question of how the United States will address coal ash—at 140 million tons a year, one of the nation’s largest waste streams—is still unanswered. Nearly four years since a dam collapse in Kingston, Tennessee, spilled 1.1 billion gallons (4 billion liters) of coal ash sludge into the Emory and Clinch rivers and the surrounding environment, regulations are stalled at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
— Rachel Cernansky, National Geographic News