Forward ash is deemed hazardous

 

By BRIAN BOWLING Tribune-Review News Service More than three years since the partial collapse of a water-logged embankment sent several thousand tons of liquefied fly ash oozing through a Forward neighborhood, the state Department of Environmental Protection has determined the arsenic laden sludge is a hazardous substance. Rostosky Ridge Road resident Barbara Diess said that's a welcome, if incredibly tardy, ruling. The state had been telling residents that the gray material covering yards, collecting in air filters and getting tracked through houses was only a nuisance. Wed really like to know what has changed their mind, she said. Diess said neighborhood residents hired experts and sued the state to get DEP to acknowledge the fly ash is hazardous. Its very frustrating and tiring to deal with. They're very good at delaying, she said. DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said designating the fly ash as a hazardous substance allows the agency to recover cleanup costs from Allegheny Energy and the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County. Air sampling and other tests by the

 


Allegheny County Health Department in the months after the Jan. 25, 2005, landslide determined the ash posed no long-term health risk to people, and the DEP still believes that, Humphreys said. We do not, at all, see an imminent risk, she said. Fly ash is a byproduct of burning coal. Most of it is generated by electric power plants and industrial boilers. Pennsylvania classifies it as residual or non-hazardous industrial waste, and allows utilities to dispose of the ash in landfills or as fill in deep mines. The DEP holds Allegheny Energy responsible because the agency contends one of the company's subsidiaries generated the ash at the Mitchell Power Station in the 1960s. The ash was then used as fill along River Hill Road, which is uphill from the Rostosky Ridge Road community. Allegheny Energy declined to comment. The agency holds the municipal authority responsible because it contends a water line running through the fill broke and saturated it with water, which led to the partial collapse. Humphreys said the agency hasn't changed its opinion See FORWARD , Page 4

 
 
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 that fly ash generated at power plants today is non-hazardous. The ash that inundated the neighborhood was created when there were fewer con­trols on the process, she said.
  “We consider this fly ash to be a hazardous substance,” Humphreys said.
  The agency hired URS Corp. of New York City to remove the fly ash remaining

 


in the partially collapsed embank­ment, and the company devel­oped a plan for removing the ash above the residential area, Humphreys said.
  The state DEP will put the plan out for public comment and conduct a public hearing on it in about two weeks, she said.
  Robyn Lenhart said she and her Rostosky Ridge Road neighbors are skeptical about the DEP’s plan to clean up the ash.
  The agency promised that before without removing all of the ash, she said.
  If the agency isn’t going to remove enough ash to return arsenic levels to normal, it should buy out the residents, she said.
  “Help us get out of here and get on with our lives,” Lenhart said. “We shouldn’t have been forced to live in this.”

 
 
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