The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has promised to make good on a promise it made nine years ago to issue regulations for coal ash storage. The announcement comes more than two months after a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) impoundment pond failed and dumped more than a billion gallons of toxic coal ash on to 300 acres of east Tennessee property, destroying homes and damaging land in its wake.
The Obama administration backed up the promise by vowing to propose new regulations governing coal combustion waste by the end of the year and acting immediately to ensure more dangerous spills do not happen again, according to the New York Times.
The EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery is deciding now whether to regulate the waste as hazardous or nonhazardous. In 2000, the material was classified as nonhazardous, but because of better pollution controls, the ash has become more dangerous. Coal ash contains toxins such as arsenic, lead, chromium, manganese and barium. Those materials can lead to serious health problems such as cancer, liver damage and neurological complications.
Residents who live hear the Kingston, Tennessee plant have already complained of breathing problems and some have even tested positive for high levels heavy metal.
TVA is undergoing a million-dollar-a-day cleanup program that is expected to total between $525 million and $825 before it is restored.
The coal industry has long opposed regulation, saying the move will cost billions each year. Activist groups say regulation is necessary to ensure the safety of those living near the plants. EPA has raised concerns from improved tests that show more toxins than previously thought leaching from the ash into groundwater, according to the report.