This guest post is written by Michael Patoka of the Center for Progressive Reform, and was originally entitled “Ash Time Goes By: Administration Continues Foot-Dragging on Coal Ash Rule as Toxic Landfills and Ash Ponds Grow by 94 Million Tons Each Year” It is reposted here, with permission, as a three-part series.
While the Obama Administration stalls for time on the EPA’s coal ash rule, communities remain vulnerable to more than 2,000 aging disposal sites, including the 45 ponds that the EPA has deemed “high hazard” (likely to kill people if their dams burst).
Coal ash sites have already been responsible for at least 211 documented cases of contamination. As if to show that Kingston was not an isolated event, another pond collapsed in 2011, spilling a football field’s worth of coal ash into Lake Michigan and swallowing trucks and machinery whole—but luckily none of the 100 nearby workers. How many close calls can we have left?
Along the Ohio River in Kentucky, there’s a pond literally across the street from a residential neighborhood at Louisville Gas and Electric’s Cane Run facility. It drains millions of gallons of contaminated water into the river under its state permit, to prevent overflow. Not only is the groundwater polluted with dangerous levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and selenium, but the landfill scatters “black soot everywhere” in the words of one resident, who said, “I‘ve lived there for 35 years and all I do is watch people die.”
Coal ash impoundments in Asheville, North Carolina contain at least 905 million gallons of waste, held back by 95 foot dams. These dams are rated ‘high hazard’ by the EPA, because a failure at this site would cause significant damage to nearby neighborhoods, a major highway, the French Broad River, and likely result in loss of life. For years, these impoundments have been leaking high concentrations of heavy metals, like arsenic, to the French Broad River. This has prompted environmental groups and the State of North Carolina to sue the plant’s operator, Duke Energy, to stop the ongoing pollution.
Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of many examples of coal ash dumps located perilously close to communities and the waters they depend on for recreation, fishing, agriculture and drinking water. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy encourages you to click here to send your message asking EPA to swiftly finalize a protective rule regulating coal ash as hazardous waste.