Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Small Oklahoma town fights coal-ash disposal site

Residents of a small town in eastern Oklahoma have injected themselves into the national debate about fly ash from coal-fired power plants, which they say is poisoning their community. "There are at least 12 fly-ash sites scattered across Oklahoma, but none bigger than the one in Bokoshe," Jennifer Loren of News on 6 TV in Tulsa reports. "It's an old mine that's being 'reclaimed' with the fly ash, but it's 55 feet tall and covers more than 20 acres. It's about a mile from the center of Bokoshe." Last year locals won their first battle when they showed the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality the ash was being dumped illegally and blanketing their town in harmful substances. (Wikipedia map)

Oklahoma DEQ now "requires that water is mixed with the ash to keep it from contaminating the air," Loren reports. Bokoshe resident Sharon Tanksley told her, "They thought that they could come into a town of about 450 people and they could do pretty much what they wanted to do and that we would sit back and allow them to do so, but they underestimated their opponent." But some, like Bokoshe resident Charles Tackett, said the win came too late. Tackett told Loren that "people in 14 of the 20 families living closest to the dump have died from or are living with cancer."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering a proposal that would label fly ash a hazardous waste and give federal regulators control over its disposal. Scott Thompson, director of DEQ's Land Protection Division, told Loren the Oklahoma Department of Mines actually regulates coal ash at the Bokoshe site. Whichever state department is in charge, locals had a clear message at the EPA's Dallas hearing on the hazardous-waste idea. Bokoshe resident Susan Holmes explained, "My message to you today is that the state regulatory agencies in Oklahoma have failed." (Read more)

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