Environmental

Officials in other states review safety of coal ash plants

Coal ash ponds similar to the one at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plant in Kingston, Tennessee that failed and poured more than a billion gallons of toxic material on to east Tennessee property, are located all across the country, which has some people asking, “Can a coal ash spill happen here?” according to the Gillette News Record.

An Associated Press report found that there are 162 power plants in the county that have coal ash ponds. Those ponds store anywhere from 500 tons to 653,300 tons of coal ash. While coal ash has stayed somewhat below the environmental issues radar, its safety has come into question recently after the December 2008 spill in Kingston.

That spill fell on 300 acres of rural community, destroying houses, damaging property and pouring into nearby rivers. While cleanup efforts are underway, there is much debate surrounding the safety of the land, water and air. Coal ash contains dangerous toxins that can cause serious health concerns such as cancer, liver damage and neurological complications.

The TVA spill has spurred environmental and industry officials in other parts of the country to take a closer look at coal ash ponds at other sites. According to the Gillette News Record report, industry officials in Wyoming say coal ash ponds there are not in jeopardy of leaking or spilling, adding that the TVA incident likely was the result of bad engineering and not the lack of federal regulation.

Despite the reassurance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has vowed to study the issue and decide whether regulation is necessary. Environmental groups continue to argue that regulating the giant toxic ponds are a must for human safety.