Thursday, February 25, 2010

Environmental groups say they have found 31 more coal-ash contamination sites

Pollution of nearby groundwater, wetlands and streams has been found at 31 more coal-ash impoundment sites in addition to the 70 previously identified by the Environmental Protection Agency, says a new report from two environmental groups. Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project say they found 31 contaminated sites in 14 states. Pennsylvania and North Carolina led the list with six each. Florida and South Carolina each had three. Tennessee, West Virginia and Indiana had two each, and Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico each had one.

"The data are overwhelming, and these 31 sites sound a clear warning that the EPA must heed before much more damage is done," Jeff Stant, director of EIP's coal combustion waste initiative, told Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette. A spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection told Ward it would be "premature" to say whether the report's information about West Virginia was correct.

EPA has delayed a formal ruling on disposal and handling of toxic waste from coal-fired power plants, indicating it may come in April. Contamination has already migrated off power-plant property at 15 of the 31 sites identified, Ward reports. "The remaining 16 show evidence of severe on-site pollution," he writes. "Off-site monitoring data for 14 of these 16 was not even available." Contamination was also found at 11 "dry landfills" and at two sites where the coal-ash is said to be put to "beneficial reuse," for structural fills for highways and building construction.

"This kind of damage could easily have been prevented with sensible safeguards such as phasing out leak-prone ash ponds and requiring the use of synthetic liners and leachate collection systems," the report said. "Yet, incredibly, ash and other coal combustion wastes are not subject to any federal regulations." (Read more)

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