Archives for posts with tag: coal ash

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March 22, 2012 was World Water Day. See how North Carolina citizens came together to protect their waters from coal ash.

It’s no secret that coal is our dirtiest energy source. However, what many people don’t know is that as coal burns, many of its most toxic elements, including heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and chromium, are concentrated in the ash that remains and the sludge that’s scrubbed from smokestacks. This by-product is called coal ash. It’s the second largest industrial waste stream in United States and is essentially unregulated.

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From al.com:

Alabama’s coal-fired power plants dispose of almost 15 million pounds of toxic metals in on-site ash ponds, more than plants in any other state. Alabama Power Co.’s Miller Steam Plant in western Jefferson County sends more toxic metals to its ash pond than any other plant in the country, more than 5 million pounds annually.

That’s according to an analysis of data in the U.S. EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory published Thursday by the Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy organization.

The nation’s attention turned to coal ash ponds three years ago, when a pond associated with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant ruptured, flooding 300 acres of the countryside with contaminated sludge that inundated homes and fields and flowed into the Emory and Clinch rivers, filling in large areas of the rivers and resulting in fish kills.

In the aftermath of the spill, industry and governmental agencies increased scrutiny of the ponds. Pond usage is one method of disposing of the ash left over from burning coal. That ash contains traces of such metals as arsenic, chromium and lead that occur naturally in the coal. Wet ash is pumped to the ponds, where the water is held so the contaminants settle out of suspension.

Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman said Miller’s No.1 ranking and top 20 rankings for its Gorgas plant in Walker County, its Gaston plant in Shelby County and the Barry plant near Mobile are mostly a function of the size of the plants. Miller is one of the nation’s largest coal-fired plants.

Alabama Power chose to build larger plants that burn more coal, he said, while another utility might have multiple plants that would add up to a similar volume. Sznajderman said the ponds are part of the plants’ environmental controls and the company has a long track record of operating them safely.

“We did have our ash impoundments inspected and received a satisfactory rating and that is the highest rating you can get,” he said. “The fact of the matter is we have operated these ash impoundments for decades to contain these materials onsite at the plant safely. We have a vigorous inspection program to ensure these facilities are inspected regularly.”

In addition to the assessment EPA made of the condition of ash pond dams across the country, the agency also classified ash ponds by the level of hazard posed if dams were to fail.

All but one of the Alabama Power ponds were classified as a significant risk, meaning that, if a rupture occurred, environmental and property damage would result. One ash pond at the Gaston plant in Shelby County’s Wilsonville is classified as a high hazard, meaning that loss of life could occur if a dam broke. All the ponds lie near waterways that receive treated discharge from the ponds.

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Image from Flickr.

From Reuters:

Toxic contamination from coal ash, a waste product of coal-fired power plants, has been detected in ground water and soil at 20 sites in 10 U.S. states, an environmental watchdog group reported on Tuesday.

These sites are the latest to contribute to a total of 157 identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the independent Environmental Integrity Project, which released the report.

Coal ash is left after coal is burned at power plants and has concentrations of heavy metals and salts that can leach into the environment unless disposed of properly in ponds with liners and covers, said Jeff Stant, the report’s editor.

But most states do not require ponds to be lined, have any construction standards or any monitoring or cleanup requirements, Stant said, adding that almost half the wastes from coal-burning in the United States are dumped this way.

Nineteen of the 20 newly identified sites show ground water contaminated with arsenic or other toxic metals exceeding the maximum contaminant level set out in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The 20th site showed contaminated soil with arsenic 900 times the federal screening level for site cleanups, the report said.

Those who live near these sites, including three people who spoke at a briefing, reported contaminated streams, respiratory problems and air pollution powerful enough to turn a white house black. In one case, a rancher said he closely monitors the amount of sulfate in the water his cattle drink because this chemical can reach lethal levels.

PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERN

The Environmental Integrity Project released an open letter to Congress signed by more than 2,000 people living near coal ash sites, decrying “legislation that would stop EPA in its tracks and replace real standards with imaginary state ‘plans’ that polluters could ignore …”

Stant and others noted at a briefing that the House of Representatives has passed and the Senate is considering legislation that the environmental group said would give the states, instead of the federal government, authority to address the problem of coal ash contamination of water and soil.

“We already have here a clear and present danger to America’s public health,” Stant said at a telephone briefing. “It is no solution for Congress to hand authority for addressing the problem permanently to states that have refused to enforce common-sense standards for the last 30 years and hope that the whole problem goes away.”

John Ward, of the American Coal Ash Association, disputed that interpretation of the measure now in Congress.

“There are no federal standards for coal ash right now,” Ward said by telephone. “This bill would also expand EPA’s enforcement authority from what it is now.”

Ward noted that coal ash is generated in vast quantities and can be reprocessed into such consumer goods as wallboard and shingles.

“We think the solution to coal ash problems is to stop throwing it away, to alleviate the need to have these disposal ponds at all,” Ward said.

More.

  • The full Environmental Integrity Project report is available online at environmentalintegrity.org.
  • For the report click here.
  • For the news release click here.
  • Read the letter to Congress from more than 2,000 Americans living near coal ash sites
  • Listen to the December 13, 2011 news event here.

From

The Moapa River Indian Reservation, tribal home of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, sits about 30 miles north of Las Vegas and about 300 yards from the coal ash ponds and landfills of the Reid Gardner Power Station. Coal ash is the toxic ash and sludge left at the end of the coal burning process. It’s laced with arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals. It’s the second largest waste stream in America and it’s currently unregulated.

If the conditions are just wrong, coal ash picks up from Reid Gardner and moves across the desert like a toxic sandstorm sending the local residents running for their homes. The reservation has lung, heart and thyroid disease rates that are abnormally high and the power plant is currently seeking to expand its coal ash storage capability.

The film An Ill Wind tells the Paiute Indians’ story.

View and interactive presentation of the story here.

Watch the complete film here.

And learn more about coal ash here

From WFPL News:

You can’t see the smokestacks of the Cane Run Power Station from Stephanie Hogan’s home, even though she lives a block away. And while the power plant isn’t visible, it’s still a looming presence in Hogan’s life.

“Oh, he breathes so bad, he sounds like Darth Vader.” Hogan shakes her head, and her two-year-old son Cody wheezes. “You ain’t even been running.”

The family bought their trailer near the Louisville Gas and Electric-operated power plant about 15 months ago, and since then, Cody has developed serious respiratory problems. Eventually, his mom took him to a specialist, who pinpointed the potential cause of Cody’s sickness.

“I think it was the second visit, she asked where we lived,” Hogan said. “And I told her, and she said ‘oh, you live next to that power plant. You need to move.’”

But Hogan can’t move. She’s trapped by her trailer’s low resale value, as well as her son’s rising medical expenses. Cody has asthma. He’s had tubes installed in his ears twice and three times he’s come down with an unexplained fever. Hogan estimates she spent nearly $4,000 in doctor’s visits and medication last year.

She says the culprit is coal ash: the sometimes-fine, sometimes-chunky material that’s leftover after coal is burned. It coats her porch, and she doesn’t let Cody play outside anymore, no matter how much he begs.

* * *

Coal generates more than half of the nation’s energy and it’s burned in power plants in all but four states. One inevitable byproduct of burning coal is ash, and there’s a lot of coal ash in America.

So much, in fact, that “you could fill the boxcars of a freight train that would stretch from New York City to Melbourne, Australia every year with the coal ash that American power plants generate,” Jeff Stant said. He’s the director of the Environmental Integrity Project’s Coal Combustion Waste Initiative.

“A lot of this ash has got the consistency of talc. People breathe it in, their lungs never get rid of it. It has metals that cross the lung’s tissue into the blood stream. There have been studies done of the exposure of rats to this dust and other lab animals, and the results have been very disturbing.”

At the Cane Run plant, the ash is stored in a landfill and a pond. The pond is invisible from the road, but the landfill is pretty obvious: huge piles of slate-grey coal ash rising off the banks of the Ohio River. At the base of the landfill is a pauper’s cemetery.

“It’s kinda fitting, you know,” Kathy Little said, walking through the cemetery. “It really is because that’s where they want to be, within the poorest of the poor areas.”

Little lives in one of the houses facing the power plant. The Cane Run Power Station is one of three area LG&E coal-fired plants. It burns 1.3 million tons of coal every year. Last year, it produced 160,000 tons of coal ash.

Before the ash is placed in a landfill, it’s mixed with different materials that create a cement-like consistency. It’s loaded into piles, which is where LG&E’s Mike Winkler says it stays.

“It’s plenty heavy enough to stay in place,” he said. “And during the placement process if it’s too dry, then it’s wetted. We’ll have trucks that come through and spray it to give it wetness. But it’s got enough moisture in it that it doesn’t blow off in general.”

But as we walk down the street, Little points to the air above the landfill.

“Yeah. There it goes,” she said. “You see the black up there? If you notice, you’ll see some ash blowing. That’s what they’re trying to keep on their property, and it’s not happening.”

Sure enough, ash wisps are flying off. They end up on nearby porches and siding. For the neighbors, this is annoying, and also worrisome. Samples taken by the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District and, most recently, LG&E itself have confirmed the presence of fly ash on several area homes.

More.

From iWatch:

With a handful of Democratic votes, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill Wednesday that limits the EPA’s ability to regulate coal ash and says coal ash residue deserves little more scrutiny and regulation than municipal trash.

Instead of giving the Environmental Protection Agency the mandate to regulate coal ash, the bill puts the onus on states to set up a program to deal with the issue. EPA would provide oversight. The bill passed by a 35-12 vote, with six Democrats joining the GOP.

As iWatch News has reported, coal ash’s metals have poisoned water supplies, damaged ecosystems and jeopardized the health of nearby residents. EPA has faced stiff resistance in trying to regulate the material as hazardous waste, led by coal-supported politicians such as one of the bill’s biggest proponents, David McKinley, R-W.Va.

“I’m going to defend the coal industry all across America,” McKinley said Wednesday. “We cannot afford any further attack in this war on coal.”

More.

From iWatch:

Stand before the pond known here in southwestern Pennsylvania as Little Blue Run, and you’ll see nothing that resembles its bucolic-sounding name.

The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant. The pond spans nearly 1,000 acres of rolling, rural landscape in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Millions of tons of coal ash have landed in the 35-year-old dump, looming over some 50,000 people in southeastern Ohio, held back by a 400-foot-tall dam, that federal regulators have deemed a “high hazard” to human life if it ever let loose.

Here in tiny Greene Township, where the pond consumes more than 10 percent of the total land, Little Blue Run seems a wasteland.

Coal ash, tinted blue, has overtaken the valley, rising each year by a million tons, blanketing the trees so they look like pixie sticks. Residents say dry ash wafts into their yards, its sulfuric smell burning their throats. At night, they hear a swooshing sound as coal ash cascades down a pipe stretching seven miles from the Bruce Mansfield Power Station, in Shippingport, Pa.

“It will keep rising,” says Marci Carpenter, who lives in a neighborhood dotted with vacant properties and abandoned homes, “and soon it’ll be above my house.”

Unless, that is, coal ash is regulated by the federal government.

More.

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From :

Coal ash. It’s a byproduct of electric power plants. Residents near what is believed to be the largest dump site east of the Mississippi have lived with the environmental consequences for years. But now there’s new hope that proposed federal regulation may change the industry’s practices.

From Earth Justice:

Coal-fired power plants are poisoning our rivers, lakes and streams with coal ash, a waste product that contains arsenic, mercury, and lead. Coal ash poisons fish, making them unsafe to eat. For decades, power plants have carelessly dumped coal ash into ponds and landfills that leak into our rivers and streams. It’s time for the EPA to set strong safeguards that classify coal ash as hazardous waste—because that’s exactly what it is.

From Earth Justice:

Coal-fired power plants are poisoning our rivers, lakes and streams with coal ash, a waste product that contains arsenic, mercury, and lead. Coal ash poisons fish, making them unsafe to eat. For decades, power plants have carelessly dumped coal ash into ponds and landfills that leak into our rivers and streams. It’s time for the EPA to set strong safeguards that classify coal ash as hazardous waste—because that’s exactly what it is.

Washington Post: Environmental justice issues take center stage.

The winding Mataponi Creek looks clear in the sunlight, with marsh grasses lining its banks. But some of the coal ash waste from a nearby power plant is also coursing through its waters, and residents are worried it is contaminating their well water.  The area around the Brandywine ash storage site – where waste from Mirant Mid-Atlantic’s Chalk Point plant containing carcinogens and heavy metals ends up – is a fairly rural community, with residents who are far from politically active and have little leverage with elected officials who might act on the matter. . . . The controversy over toxic coal ash waste in this corner of Prince George’s County – and fights for greater coal ash regulation from Alabama to Puerto Rico – highlights an issue that has been around for decades and is again in the spotlight: environmental justice.  More . . .

Associated Press: Cadmium, lead found in drinking glasses.

Drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman and the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz” exceed federal limits for lead in children’s products by up to 1,000 times, according to laboratory testing commissioned by The Associated Press. The decorative enamel on the superhero and Oz sets — made in China and purchased at a Warner Brothers Studios store in Burbank — contained between 16 percent and 30.2 percent lead. The federal limit on children’s products is 0.03 percent. The same glasses also contained relatively high levels of the even-more-dangerous cadmium, though there are no federal limits on that toxic metal in design surfaces. More . . .

Associated Press: US probes lead in kids’ drinking glasses.

Federal regulators launched an investigation on Monday into lead levels in themed drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters, declaring them children’s products subject to stricter standards than those intended for adult collectors.  The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said it was collecting samples of all glasses cited in an ongoing Associated Press investigation into dangerous metals in children’s merchandise, generally those containing the more dangerous toxin cadmium. The company that imported the Chinese-made glasses depicting the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and characters from The Wizard of Oz, such as Dorothy and the Tin Man, announced it would voluntarily recall them, despite its insistence that they were marketed to adults. More . . .

Center for Public Integrity: One town’s recurring coal ash nightmare.

Stand before the pond known here in southwestern Pennsylvania as Little Blue Run, and you’ll see nothing that resembles its bucolic-sounding name. The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant.

The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant. The pond spans nearly 1,000 acres of rolling, rural landscape in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Millions of tons of coal ash have landed in the 35-year-old dump, looming over some 50,000 people in southeastern Ohio, held back by a 400-foot-tall dam, that federal regulators have deemed a “high hazard” to human life if it ever let loose.

Here in tiny Greene Township, where the pond consumes more than 10 percent of the total land, Little Blue Run seems a wasteland.

Coal ash, tinted blue, has overtaken the valley, rising each year by a million tons, blanketing the trees so they look like pixie sticks. Residents say dry ash wafts into their yards, its sulfuric smell burning their throats. At night, they hear a swooshing sound as coal ash cascades down a pipe stretching seven miles from the Bruce Mansfield Power Station, in Shippingport, Pa.

“It will keep rising,” says Marci Carpenter, who lives in a neighborhood dotted with vacant properties and abandoned homes, “and soon it’ll be above my house.”

Unless, that is, coal ash is regulated by the federal government.

More . . . 

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