Fly ash concern four years later

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Report: Arsenic, other toxic metals concentrated in ponds, landfills

Coal plants deposited more than 200 million tons of ash or scrubber sludge into ponds or landfills between 2009 and 2011, according to a new report out today from Environmental Integrity Project.  

EIP issued the coal ash data to mark the fourth anniversary of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant fly ash spill.  

On Dec. 22, 2008, 1.1 billion gallons of coal fly ash slurry was released in the Tennessee River system when a dike ruptured.

Based on industry reports submitted to the Toxics Release Inventory, the waste disposal by power plants over the three-year period after the disaster contained more than a billion pounds of arsenic and other toxic metals, which concentrate in coal residues left over after combustion. 

About a third of that three-year total found its way to ash ponds, and the rest to landfills.

The report identifies 44 facilities in 19 states that reported disposing of substantial volumes of arsenic and other toxic metals from 2009 through 2011 in ponds or landfills.

It indicates which contaminants have shown up in monitoring wells at levels exceeding Safe Drinking Water Act limits or Health Advisory levels within the same three years. 

For example, eleven facilities report disposing of huge volumes of arsenic in coal ash at sites where Safe Drinking Water Act limits for arsenic have already been exceeded.

Those include the Tampa Electric Big Bend and Gulf Power Crist plants in Florida; Duke Power’s Gibson Generating Station in Indiana; the Louisville Gas & Electric Cane Run and TVA Paradise power stations in Kentucky, the AEP Cardinal plant in Ohio; the Bruce Mansfield Plant in Pennsylvania; Basin Electric Leland Olds Plant in North Dakota; the Cross and Winyah power stations in South Carolina, and the W.A. Parrish Plant in Texas.

“The EPA’s delay has allowed the industry to continue pouring dangerous pollutants into leaking dumps that drain into groundwater, and sometimes into wetlands, creeks or rivers that are fed by the aquifers underneath coal ash dumps,” said EIP Director Eric Schaeffer.  “The industry’s own data has shown that many of these sites are already contaminated, and delay will only make the problem worse.  The evidence is in and the election is over.  What are EPA and the White House waiting for?”