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New Data Available on Federally Inspected Coal Ash Ponds

EPA provides structural assessment of 26 more ponds, adding to data on 17 released last week
September 22, 2009
Washington, DC —

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency posted data on 26 additional high or significant hazard coal ash ponds, located in 6 states (Alabama, North Carolina, Illinois, Georgia, Indiana and Kansas). This data add to the final contractor reports the EPA issued September 16 assessing the structural integrity of 17 coal ash ponds across the country.

 

The EPA rated five coal ash impoundments, located at the Progress Energy Carolinas Cape Fear Plant in Moncure, NC, "poor." According to the EPA, this means, "A management unit safety deficiency is recognized for a required loading condition (static, hydrologic, seismic) in accordance with the applicable dam safety regulatory criteria; remedial action is necessary."

The following statement is from Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans:

"We thank EPA for taking the proactive and unprecedented course of launching federal inspections of all high hazard and significant hazard coal ash ponds. We also applaud EPA for sharing critical information about these ponds with the public by promptly posting all inspection reports on their website.

"The EPA's inspections so far have resulted in six 'poor' ratings and 15 'fair' ratings at coal ash ponds. The fact that so many high and significant hazard coal ash ponds were below a 'satisfactory' rating means that increased federal oversight is essential to avoid another disaster like the failure at TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee, last winter. Today's information about the Progress Energy Cape Fear plant's coal ash ponds shows that these unregulated and ignored sites have deteriorated for far too long. Comprehensive inspection of each of these sites is an excellent step, but only the first step. What is needed are strong federal regulations that protect our health and environment by ensuring this hazardous waste is disposed of properly and securely.

"The EPA's inspections completed to date raise several very serious issues concerning these waste ponds and their continued threat to public safety and the environment. First, the inspections reveal that there are more 'high hazard' coal ash ponds than were originally identified. At three of the nine plants assessed in EPA's first round of data, impoundments rated 'significant' by the companies or state were found to warrant a 'high hazard' rating by the federal inspectors because their collapse would likely involve loss of life.

"Second, more frequent inspections of high hazard dams by state or federal officials are needed to ensure public safety. At one of the plants, a government inspection had never been done, and at a second plant, there had not been a state inspection between 2000 and 2009.

"Lastly, EPA is prevented from releasing critical information concerning 13 pond inspections by 'confidential business information' claims. It is critical that EPA quickly resolve these claims so that the public can obtain information essential to the safety of their communities."

Contacts

Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 213

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.