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Tr-Ash Talk: State of Failure

Yes, we’re still waiting. And while we wait for comprehensive federal standards that regulate toxic coal ash, we have some more bad news about the state of states' coal ash disposal.

We joined with Appalachian Mountain Advocates to release a report detailing the lack of state-based regulations for coal ash disposal and the 12 worst states when it comes to coal ash dumping: Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Among the conclusions:

  • Alabama coal ash ponds are completely unregulated at the state level, yet more than 5 million tons of ash from the Kingston TVA spill were shipped in for disposal.
  • Georgia’s aging ponds rarely undergo regulatory inspections, although 13 of 29 ponds are at least 40 years old.
  • Illinois ranks first in the number of coal ash ponds with 83. Only about a third of the ponds are lined or monitored.
  • Indiana has more operating coal ash ponds (71) than any other state, but its lax oversight resulted in eight contaminated sites and numerous pond spills.
  • Kentucky is fifth in the nation in coal ash generation, and it has 43 operating coal ash ponds, 21 of which exceed a height of 25 feet or impound more than 500 acre‐feet of ash.
  • Missouri’s largest, most dangerous coal ash pond is the only one of 32 that is regulated for dam safety while the state allows ponds impounding more than 170 million gallons of coal ash to escape safety regulation.
  • North Carolina has enough coal ash to flood an area the size of the UNC Chapel Hill campus 32 feet high.
  • Ohio excludes all coal ash from regulation by classifying it as “nontoxic," leading to water contamination at seven coal ash dump sites across the state.
  • South Carolina has more than 50 percent of its 22 ash dams classified as large capacity impoundments or with dam heights above 25 feet. 
  • Tennessee still has no set of rules that apply to the structural stability and safety of its coal ash dams despite the $1 billion TVA coal ash disaster
  • Texas is the second largest generator of coal ash in the U.S., generating roughly 13 million tons annually.
  • Virginia regulations do not require composite liners, groundwater monitoring and daily cover at all coal ash ponds and landfills.

The report includes detailed information on basic disposal safeguards, such as groundwater monitoring, liners, isolation of ash from the water table, and financial assurance requirements in 37 states where coal ash is currently generated and disposed. It's worth a read.

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