BEAVER COUNTY — Workers have been constructing a new facility in Shippingport to process byproducts from FirstEnergy Corp.’s coal-fired power plant as the company makes a major change in how it disposes of industrial waste.
The Ohio-based company plans to have the project ready for use at the end of 2016. That’s when FirstEnergy has agreed to halt the use of the residual waste impoundment known as Little Blue Run, which many neighbors alleged has leaked hazardous waste and released noxious odors.
When the Bruce Mansfield plant removes sulfur dioxide from its emissions, it creates coal combustion byproducts. FirstEnergy has been depositing much of that byproduct in Little Blue Run, which straddles Greene Township and Hancock County, West Virginia.
But the state Department of Environmental Protection sued in 2012 over leaks and threats to groundwater because of the impoundment. As part of a settlement, the company agreed to no longer use Little Blue Run by the end of 2016.
Little Blue Run has been the disposal site for Bruce Mansfield since 1974, before any requirement that the impoundment be lined. But James Fitzgerald, manager of major projects, said new disposal sites for materials treated by the new dewatering facility will be different.
“That landfill will have different regulations, different requirements. There are liners associated with it. So it’s a whole different process,” Fitzgerald said.
With the new facility, FirstEnergy will process 2.5 million to 3.5 million tons of byproduct each year, officials said.
That byproduct consists of fly ash, sulfur and lime, a chemical used as part of a scrubbing process to address sulfur dioxide emissions, spokeswoman Stephanie Walton said.
The byproduct will be processed at the new facility, where water will be removed, officials said. The water from the process will then be reused at the plant, said Jim Graf, director of the Bruce Mansfield plant.
Once the new facility processes byproduct, it would be moved by barge to another site, but the company is still exploring where those materials could be deposited, Walton said.
Those options have included the LaBelle Mine in Fayette County and a disposal site at Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station in Greene County.
The new project will cost more than $200 million, Walton said in an email, and Fitzgerald said the company has about 135 workers at the construction site so far. He said that number of workers could later double.
Some of the plant’s byproduct is already sold and reused by another company that’s right next to the Bruce Mansfield plant. The company, National Gypsum, takes about half a million tons of byproduct each year, using it as material in wallboard, FirstEnergy officials said.
Fitzgerald said the new facility could be mostly completed in summer 2016, and testing could be complete in November of that year.