Hundreds of Coal Ash Dumps Lack Regulation -- NY Times
The coal ash pond that ruptured and sent a billion gallons of toxic sludge across 300 acres of East Tennessee last month was only one of more than 1,300 similar dumps across the United States — most of them unregulated and unmonitored — that contain billions more gallons of fly ash and other byproducts of burning coal.
Like the one in Tennessee, most of these dumps, which reach up to 1,500 acres, contain toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium, which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be a threat to water supplies and human health. Yet they are not subject to any federal regulation, which experts say could have prevented the spill, and there is little monitoring of their effects on the surrounding environment.
Contaminants and waste products that once spewed through the coal plants’ smokestacks are increasingly captured in the form of solid waste, held in huge piles in 46 states, near cities like Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa, Fla., and on the shores of Lake Erie (near Buffalo), Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.
As the EPA has studied whether to regulate coal ash waste, the cases of drinking wells and surface water contaminated by leaching from the dumps or the use of the ash has swelled. In 2007, an EPA report identified 63 sites in 26 states where the water was contaminated by heavy metals from such dumps, including three other Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dumps. See the Map, below:
The full NY Times report is here.
On January 8, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding a hearing on the Tennessee coal ash disaster and the TVA. Potential hazards lurk in coal ash dumps across the country. Let Congress know that coal ash contains hazardous waste that must be subject to Federal regulation in order to protect human health and welfare as well as the environment. Tennessee residents affected by the coal ash spill let the Senate Committee Chair, Barbara Boxer, know. They presented her with a mason jar full of the TVA coal ash sludge.