Posts tagged: coal ash

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coal ash


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
22 March 2012, 11:20 AM
Water is life, so let's keep our fight for clean water alive
One billion people around the world don't have access to clean, safe water. (Getty)

It’s World Water Day, a day that reminds us of our most valuable resource of all: clean water.

Some of us may not think twice about a glass of clean water, a swimmable lake, or a fishable river, but clean water is not an accident. All the world over, clean water is something that people and governments have to work hard to protect and deliver safely to populations. And it is a resource that much of the world’s population still does not have access to.

Here are some quick facts to put access to safe, clean water into perspective:

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
21 March 2012, 7:51 AM
Why the delay in drinking water protection near coal ash dumps?
75% of American cities depend on groundwater for at least some of their drinking water. (Imagesource)

Tomorrow is World Water Day and across the globe, the United Nations and many grassroots groups are holding events to highlight the importance of clean water to our health and global security. In North Carolina, Appalachian Voices will gather residents in and around Asheville for a “Clean Water Not Coal Ash” Rally to call attention to the local and nationwide threat posed by coal ash to drinking water and the nation’s rivers, lakes and streams. In North Carolina, there are at least 10 sites where coal ash dumping has contaminated groundwater or surface water. Nationwide, coal ash dumping has poisoned aquifers and streams at over 150 sites in 34 states. Yet thousands of communities near coal ash impoundments, landfills and minefills still wait for the EPA to take action.

And they’ve been waiting a very long time. Despite 12 years of public pronouncements and promises from the EPA, final rules offering basic drinking water protections are nowhere in sight. In fact, twice every year since 2000, the EPA has officially stated in its semiannual regulatory agenda that it would establish national rules protecting drinking water from coal ash dumping.  In 2000, the EPA announced that the national rule would be final in August 2002. Yet with each successive regulatory agenda, the agency pushed out further the date of promulgation, leaving one to conclude that a political agenda is trumping the EPA’s regulatory one.

The wait is far too long, however, and the burden is unbearable on many communities. Ask the residents of Town of Pines, IN.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
14 March 2012, 8:09 AM
McKinley's “urgent” request to view leaks at nation’s largest coal ash pond
Aerial view of the Little Blue Run coal ash storage reservoir in Beaver County

Has Rep. David McKinley had a change of heart?  In a letter dated March 8, 2012, the primary author of EPA- bashing HR 2273 and best friend of coal ash, McKinley (R, WV) wrote Secretary Randy Huffman, head of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, to request that he accompany him on a visit to Chester, WV, at the southeastern edge of the massive Little Blue Run coal ash pond.  The goal of the urgent request is to assess the effectiveness of a new pumping system, which was designed to address the leaks in the pond that have plagued Chester residents for years.

The Little Blue Run coal ash pond is the largest in the nation, spanning two states and bordering a third, covering approximately 1,000 acres (over 1.5 square miles), and held back by a 40-story high hazard dam. The pond is 30 times larger than the TVA pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant, which burst in December 2008 and flooded 300 acres with 1 billion gallons of toxic sludge.  Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimates that a failure of the Little Blue dam would take the lives of 50,000 people.
 

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
07 March 2012, 12:53 PM
Closure of old coal plants raises toxic cleanup issues
Coal ash ponds in Nevada.
(Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

Across the country, communities near retiring coal plants are breathing collective sighs of relief. Closures, however, raise vexing questions about the millions of tons of toxic waste that may lie beneath the surface. Over decades, most plants have buried battleship-sized deposits of coal ash in landfills and lagoons near their plants. In the absence of federal mandates, utilities may leave behind a leaking legacy of deadly pollution, even after the belching stacks are long gone.

Communities have reason to be concerned. Buried coal ash can leach toxic metals into underground water supplies and adjacent lakes and streams for generations unless dumps are properly closed. Neighbors of Dominion’s Stateline Power plant, which will be retiring next month, have expressed these exact concerns. Located just across the Illinois border on the shore of Lake Michigan, the site has buried waste that could easily reach the lake.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
27 February 2012, 1:21 PM
Similar threats at coal ash impoundments remain unresolved
Buffalo Creek disaster

February 26, 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster—the “most destructive flood in West Virginia history,” which took 125 lives in Logan County, West Virginia, injured 1100, and left 4000 homeless.

The accounts of the manmade tsunami, borne of greed and negligence, are heartbreaking. The close-knit community was destroyed in an instant as children, neighbors, families and pets were swept to their deaths. According to one reporter who witnessed the event 40 years ago, the local high school was turned into a morgue like a scene from Gone with the Wind.

Because of the near total destruction of the community, not even photographs exist of all the victims. Nevertheless, the angelic face of 1-year old Jesse Gunells, who perished in the flood, graced a West Virginia gathering last weekend, speaking a thousand words of warning: that scores of coal ash dams, some entirely unregulated, pose similar deadly threats to communities living under them.

There are strong similarities between the Buffalo Creek disaster and the 2008 coal ash disaster in Harriman, Tennessee. A significant difference, however, is that—unlike in Tennessee—federal officials responded meaningfully to the West Virginia tragedy. The dam break led to the passage of the Surface Mining and Control and Reclamation Act and the addition of new standards in the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) that require all coal slurry impoundments to meet stricter engineering standards and undergo frequent inspections.

No regulatory reform whatsoever followed the TVA dam failure. No rules have been established by EPA, and our myopic, industry-funded leaders in the House passed a bill (HR 2273) that contains absolutely no requirements for inspections or specific engineering standards to address the nation’s hundreds of aging coal ash impoundments. The Senate is currently considering an identical bill (S 1751).

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
22 February 2012, 1:31 PM
Battlefield Golf Course plaintiffs cite injuries, ask for damages
Trainloads of coal

On Tuesday, Virginia attorney Ted G. Yoakam, representing nearly 400 people living near the Battlefield Golf Club in Chesapeake, refiled a lawsuit against Dominion Virginian Power, MJM Golf LLC (the owner of the golf course) and two additional parties involved in building the course, requesting more than $2 billion in damages. 

The refiling doubles the demand for damages of the original suit and is based on new evidence of residential water wells contaminated with hazardous substances.  Wells near the golf course were found with elevated levels of toxic metals, including lead, vanadium, manganese, cobalt, nickel, cadmium and zinc. The complaint also alleges that 10 individuals – nine of them children – are injured by exposure to the hazardous chemicals from coal ash. Arsenic found in the fly ash on one of the properties was 700 times the accepted level, and radioactive elements thorium, radium and uranium in the ash was twice the level of background soils.  
 
Yet, according to Dominion, the ash is “completely non-hazardous.” This is a familiar story.
 

View Erika Rosenthal's blog posts
16 February 2012, 3:22 PM
Controlling methane, soot and others can reduce warming by a third
Black soot on snow (NASA)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, announced a program, Climate and Clean Air Coalition, today to reduce methane, soot and other pollutants. The United States is jumpstarting the program by contributing $12 million over the next two years.

"By focusing on these pollutants, how to reduce them and, where possible, to use them for energy, people will see results," Clinton said at a news conference today in Washington D.C.

So-called short-lived pollutants like black carbon (soot), methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) account for more than one-third of global warming. They are key to reducing warming in the near term because they stay in the atmosphere for only weeks or a few years, compared to carbon dioxide which remains in the atmosphere for centuries.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
15 February 2012, 8:48 AM
Two-headed fish, selenium, mining and coal ash
Two-headed trout from selenium-impacted stream. Photo from J.R. Simplot Company Study.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

The J.R. Simplot Company, owner of several phosphate mines in Idaho, is asking federal and state regulators to relax water quality standards and permit more selenium in Idaho streams than the law currently allows.  The reason: Simplot, one of the largest privately held companies in the world, doesn’t want to clean up creeks polluted with selenium from its mining operations in the Caribou National Forest.  As part of Simplot’s campaign to avoid expensive Superfund cleanups, the company conducted a study of the fish impacted by selenium near its Smoky Canyon Mine to demonstrate that a little more selenium is not such a bad thing.

The rub is that selenium is a deadly, bioaccumulative poison in small doses, which has caused widespread devastation of fisheries from California to North Carolina.  The principle sources of selenium contamination in U.S. waters are agricultural runoff, phosphate mining and, yes, coal ash.
 

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View Emily Enderle's blog posts
10 February 2012, 11:20 AM
One town’s Tr-“ash” is no one’s treasure

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been sitting on a proposed coal ash standard for nearly 15 months. Without environmental standards for protection from this toxic waste, 54 residents of Perry County, AL had little recourse but to file a civil rights complaint alleging discrimination against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), citing them in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The complaint filed by accomplished environmental attorney David Ludder grows from collateral damage from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant coal ash spill. The spill, which was five times the volume of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, remains the largest environmental spill of any type in U.S. history and continues to devastate two communities in its aftermath.

Coal ash, the metal-laden waste after coal is burned, is often mixed with water and stored as sludge in enormous pits next to power plants. Large earthen dams, sometimes taller than 100 feet, hold back the sludge. As Christmas neared in 2008, an enormous pond burst, spilling 5.4 million cubic yards into the Harriman, TN community. It continues to be a huge mess for the residents of Harriman who don’t expect clean-up to be completed until 2014.

View Lisa Evans's blog posts
03 February 2012, 1:52 PM
Industry engages in flim-flam to spin coal ash recycling stats

The American Coal Ash Association is trying with might to mislead us. In a recent press release, they exaggerated the impact the Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking process is having on coal ash recycling, claiming a decrease in the recycling of combustion waste from coal plants since the EPA started work on a coal ash rule.The industry group stated the recycling rate “stalled in 2008 and 2009 as EPA reopened its coal ash regulatory agenda following the failure of a coal ash disposal facility in Tennessee.” 

However, the collapse of the TVA pond occurred in December 2008, and thus would have had no impact whatsoever on recycling rates that year.  The truth of the matter is that recycling rates fell in this period largely because of a downturn in the construction industry.