The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is hosting seven public hearings across the country to get the public’s opinion on the its proposal to regulate the disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants.
The proposed regulations, first announced in May, 2010, are the first-ever national effort to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants.
Coal ash is an unfortuate byproduct of all coal-fired power plants that can pose a safety risk both to workers and the natural environment.
Coal ash is loosely regulated on a state-by-state basis. In some states, it’s less regulated than household waste. The need for national management criteria and regulation was emphasized by the December 2008 spill of coal ash from a surface impoundment near Kingston, Tenn.
Where Does Coal Ash Come From?
To understand where the toxic coal ash comes from, just imagine using a charcoal grill to cook up some food in the summer. The briquettes are placed in the in the grill, and burned. When it’s given all the heat it can, the coal slowly cools and disintegrates into a pile of ash.
A similar process occurs in coal burning power plants, only power companies produce more than 130 million tons of coal ash every year. That’s enough waste annually to fill train cars from the North Pole to the South Pole.
It’s typical for the power plants to sell off a large portion of the coal ash to cement manufacturers, but anything that’s left over is dumped into landfills and ash ponds, some of which are completely unlined and barely maintained. These “holding ponds” leak heavy metal discharges into nearby lakes and rivers, and when they break, it unleashes a flood of toxic sludge.
Make Coal Companies Clean Up Their Act
If passed, the new national regulations will ensure for the first time that protective controls, such as liners and ground water monitoring, are in place at new landfills to protect groundwater and human health.
Existing surface impoundments will also require liners, with strong incentives to close these impoundments and transition to safer landfills which store coal ash in dry form.
The proposed regulations will ensure stronger oversight of the structural integrity of impoundments and promote environmentally safe and desirable forms of recycling coal ash, known as beneficial uses.
Coal-fired power plants and coal ash storage facilities are all over the country, from Los Angeles to West Virginia, so it’s important for people across the nation to tell the EPA to protect communities from toxic coal ash.
Here are the remaining stops on the EPA’s public comment tour, if you’re interested in voicing your opinion:
September 8: Hyatt Regency Dallas, 300 Reunion Boulevard, Dallas, Texas
September 14: Holiday Inn Charlotte (Airport), 2707 Little Rock Road, Charlotte, N.C.
September 16: Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Ill.
September 21: Omni Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh, Pa.
September 28: Seelbach Hilton, 500 Fourth Street, Louisville, Ky.
Sign The Petitions!
Protect Communities from Toxic Coal Ash!
Coal Ash is Hazardous Waste and Must Be Regulated Now
Tell The EPA: Regulate Coal Ash
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