The EPA has targeted 44 coal ash storage sites in ten states that are similar to the one that flooded a community in Tennessee last year. There are over 400 coal ash storage sites in the U.S. However, federal officials targeted these sites for inspection after they were identified as potential threats to nearby communities. These particular sites were selected because of their close proximity to where people live, not because of any discovered defect. According to Matt Hale, director of the EPA’s office of research, conservation and recovery, the “high hazard potential means there will be probable loss of human life if there is a significant dam failure.” Therefore, the agency wants to make sure that the sites are structurally sound.
Burning coal produces ash which is stored as liquid slurry in containment ponds or dams. These ponds hold fly ash, bottom ash, coal slag and flue gas residues that contain toxic metals such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium, lead and mercury. Last year, one such dam broke near Kingston, Tennessee flooding 300 acres of a nearby community with 5 million cubic yards of ash and sludge and damaging 40 homes. That incident prompted a safety review of storage ponds that hold the waste byproduct near large coal burning power plants.
Until recently, the public has not been privy to the locations of coal ash sites across the country. The Army Corps of Engineers did not want the locations disclosed because of the possibility that terrorists may target such a facility. Senator Barbara Boxer, D-California, called on the EPA to disclose high-risk coal ash locations after the incident in Tennessee. Boxer said that it is essential that the public knows where these sites are “so that people have the information they need to quickly press for action to make these sites safer.”
The sites identified were in the following states: North Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Montana. The largest concentration of potentially hazardous sites is near Cochise, Arizona where there are seven ponds. North Carolina has a dozen targeted sites, more than any other state on the list.
Source: Associated Press
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