Sabrina Mislevy is tired of the odors, the way they “hit” her as she drives by the blue-tinted lake, the way they burn her nose. Like many of her neighbors, Mislevy has grown weary of living near the nation’s largest coal ash pond, Little Blue Run, which straddles the Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio state lines.
In Little Blue Run and beyond, coal ash, waste from the production of electricity, has fouled water supplies and endangered public health. “We want action,” said Mislevy, of Georgetown, Pa., explaining why she has joined some 200 other area residents in launching legal challenges against FirstEnergy Corp., the owner of Little Blue Run.
Her community is just one across the country pursuing legal challenges against coal-ash ponds, landfills and pits — a grassroots onslaught stoked, in part, by slow regulatory action by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Last May at Little Blue Run, residents laid the groundwork for a potential citizens’ suit against FirstEnergy, sending a notice of intent to sue. Calling themselves the Little Blue Regional Action Group, they accused the company of operating its 1,000-acre ash pond “in a manner that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.” In December, residents sent another notice to FirstEnergy alleging “additional significant and ongoing violations,” including dirtying a creek that flows into the Ohio River with arsenic and selenium — toxic constituents found in coal ash.
A FirstEnergy spokesman, Mark Durbin, calls the residents’ claims “wholly without merit.”
The pending action and others come as the federal government weighs how to regulate coal ash, one of the nation’s largest refuse streams at 136 million tons a year. Two years after unveiling a plan to regulate coal ash disposal for the first time, the EPA has delayed the rules.