2008.10.23 – Tamaqua residents take issue with ash

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Tamaqua residents take issue with ash

BY TOM RAGAN
STAFF WRITER
tragan@standardspeaker.com
Published: Thursday, October 23, 2008 4:18 AM EDT

TAMAQUA — Placing coal ash at the Springdale Pit resurfaced during Tuesday night’s Tamaqua Borough Council meeting.

The Department of Environmental Protection last month gave the go-ahead to resume dumping coal ash into the 2,500-foot-long, 400-foot-deep mine reclamation project, which falls in Carbon and Schuylkill counties.

The now-inactive mine was owned and operated by Lehigh Coal & Navigation Co.

Up until two years ago, some residents from Nesquehoning, Summit Hill, Coaldale, Lansford and Tamaqua opposed dumping any coal combustion waste into the pit.

The DEP stopped Lehigh Coal in 2006 from dumping anything into the stripping pit as part of a mine reclamation project.

On Wednesday, Tamaqua councilwoman Cathy Miorelli showed the council a reauthorization letter dated Sept. 26 from geologic specialist Cynthia A. Kuklis of District Mining Operations, DEP office in Pottsville, that stated the coal company’s request to resume ash placement activities from a source identified as Dynegy Northeast Generation-Danskammer Station.

Kuklis’ letter states that if Lehigh Coal uses Dynegy, which is a DEP-approved source, beyond 2008, the criteria and procedures for beneficial use of coal ash are changing. She advises Lehigh Coal to apply for statewide-certified coal ash approval through the DEP’s Bureau of Mining and Reclamation in Harrisburg.

James J. Curran III, vice-president of Lehigh Coal operations, said Wednesday that his company intends to resume placement of coal ash — if approved — into the pit as part of their planned reclamation project. Curran said that he did not see the DEP letter.

Miorelli aired her worst fears at Tuesday’s meeting.

“They could do a lot of dumping until it’s 2009,” She said.

Miorelli also asked council if anyone had gone out to the site to see what was going on.

“We made some phone calls but we didn’t actually visit the Springdale site,” Borough Manager Kevin Steigerwalt replied.

A Hometown resident, Joe Murphy, brought up health issues in the area, telling council that he attended a recent discussion on polycythemia vera, a rare type of blood cancer, in Hazleton with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. A two-year study by the Toxic Substances and Disease Registry confirmed a statistically significant number of PV cancer diagnoses in an area surrounding Ben Titus Road between Tamaqua and McAdoo, where 33 cases of the rare cancer have been clinically confirmed.

It was determined that the region is a cancer “hot zone.”

“We need to be focused on why people are so sick in our area. We have been inundated by fly ash and other toxic materials in this area,” Murphy said.

Miorelli said there are concerns about groundwater contamination if toxic materials are being dumped at the Springdale Pit.

The borough council unanimously approved sending a letter to DEP and Lehigh Coal about the status of the Springdale Pit and whether the company intends to resume placing coal ash at the site.

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