The spill occurred where New Page Corporation—a papermaker—maintains an ash storage lagoon. New Page also operates a coal-burning power plant to produce the electricity needed to run the paper mill. At the site, three 800-foot pipelines carry the ash to a 1.2 million gallon storage lagoon across the river. The damaged Maryland pipeline was shut down; two other lines continue to operate, carrying ash slurry from the power plant to an ash storage lagoon about 800 feet away in West Virginia.
Fly ash is a residue that results from coal combustion. This waste product can contain toxins such as arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, chromium VI, cobalt, dioxins, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, PAH compounds, elenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium. The North Branch, where the facility is located, defines the Maryland-West Virginia state line for more 60 miles from Maryland's western boundary to Oldtown, where it joins the South Branch to form the main stem of the Potomac. All the Potomac except the South Branch is owned and regulated by the state of Maryland. (NewsInferno.com, AP)