Largest U.S. coal ash pond Little Blue to close, but future rules still undecided

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Neighbors recall promises that the eerie azure lake known as
“Little Blue” would be made into a recreational jewel, complete with
swimming, bike trails, and sailboats.

But the sprawling pond, its blue somewhat faded in recent years, delivered more blight than benefits to its rural surroundings near the West Virginia
border in southwestern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania officials now have initiated shutdown of the facility south of the Ohio River, one of the largest U.S. impoundments for waste ash from coal power plants.

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.

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