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FirstEnergy may ship Mansfield scrubber waste to PA mine

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FirstEnergy announced Jan. 22 that, pending regulatory approval, it will shift disposal of the Bruce Mansfield Plant scrubber residues on Jan. 1, 2017, from the Little Blue Run slurry impoundment, slated for closure, to a coal mine reclamation project in La Belle, Pa.

Since the 1970s, a slurry of scrubber residues has been piped from the coal-fired Mansfield power plant in Shippingport, Pa. to the 1,700-acre Little Blue Run slurry impoundment that straddles the border with Pennsylvania at Hancock County in the Northern Panhandle.

But the unlined impoundment has been the target of ongoing complaints by local residents, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found contaminants in groundwater near the impoundment — an area where households use private wells for drinking water. A July consent decree between FirstEnergy Generation and the Pennsylvania Department of Protection requires FirstEnergy to close the impoundment by Dec. 31, 2016.

The company said it has negotiated an agreement with Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc. that will result in the residues being used at a mine reclamation project in La Belle, Pa.

The use of alkaline scrubber residues to control acidic drainage from coal mines is common in West Virginia, in what is known as beneficial re-use. The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is considering whether this use results in leaching of toxic heavy metals into groundwater and surface water.

Scrubber residues are one of the types of coal plant waste materials known collectively as coal combustion residuals.

In the proposed arrangement, FirstEnergy said, the beneficial re-use has to be approved by PADEP. The materials would be transported by barge along the Ohio and Monongahela rivers from Shippingport to La Belle.

Coal combustion residuals from FirstEnergy's Mitchell Power Station near Courtney, Pa. already are used for reclamation at the La Belle mine reclamation site, the company said.

FirstEnergy said it has informed PADEP and the Army Corps of Engineers that it will formally withdraw previously submitted permit applications seeking to expand Little Blue Run with a new, dry coal combustion residuals disposal facility in Pennsylvania adjacent to the existing impoundment.

"This was an economic decision based on the costs of barging the material to a third-party site compared to permitting and constructing an expanded disposal facility near the existing Little Blue Run impoundment," said James Lash, president of FirstEnergy Generation.

FirstEnergy also said it expects to continue to convert about 450,000 tons per year of coal combustion residuals from the Mansfield plant to synthetic gypsum and send it across the street to the National Gypsum Plant for use in the manufacture of wallboard — another beneficial re-use. Since 2000, more than five million tons of the material has been recycled as wallboard.

As part of the consent decree, the company will submit a formal Little Blue Run closure plan to PADEP by March 31. It will provide details regarding future plans for the facility, including a study regarding potential future groundwater impacts in and around the facility.