Monday, June 29, 2009

EPA releases high hazard coal ash waste sites--one in PA!

Gives a whole new meaning to CYA (Cover Your Ash)...I borrow and paraphrase from the EPA site (if you want to read the whole thing, go here):

Fact Sheet: "Over the past several months, EPA has undertaken a concerted effort to identify and to assess the structural integrity of impoundments, dams, or other management units, within the electric power generating industry, holding wet-handled coal combustion residues or CCRs ... electric utilities have so far identified a total of 427 units managing slurried CCRs. Forty-four (44) of these units at 26 different locations have been assigned a high hazard potential rating..."

"The National Inventory of Dams hazard potential ratings address the potential consequences of failure or misoperation of the dam. A high hazard potential rating indicates that a failure will probably cause loss of human life. The rating is not an indication of the structural integrity of the unit or the possibility that a failure will occur in the future; it merely allows dam safety and other officials to determine where significant damage or loss of life may occur if there is a structural failure of the unit."

Sounds scary, but why should you care? "CCRs consist of fly ash, bottom ash, coal slag, and flue gas desulfurization (FGD) residue. CCRs contain a broad range of metals, for example, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, lead, and mercury, but the concentrations of these are generally low. However, if not properly managed, (for example, in lined units), CCRs may cause a risk to human health and the environment and, in fact, EPA has documented cases of environmental damage."

So, where are these sites? AZ (9), GA (1), IL (2), IN (1), KY (7), MT (1), NC (12), OH (6), PA (1), WV (4). See the Fact Sheet for cities and specifics.

What's being done about these sites?
"The list of units was compiled from information submitted to EPA by the electric utilities in response to EPA’s March 9, 2009 information request. The 44 units will receive high priority attention as EPA continues its assessment of impoundment safety. As announced by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, on March 9, 2009, EPA has committed to proposing regulation on the management of coal combustion wastes by December 31, 2009."

I am hopeful but not exactly holding my breath. I do commend the EPA for coming forward with this information.

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