Environmental

4,000 gallons of coal ash pour into Potomac River

Washington lawmakers are now more in touch with the coal ash spill travesty that dumped more than a billion gallons of toxic material on to 300 acres of residential property in east Tennessee last December. Sunday night, a pipeline at a Maryland coal-burning power plant ruptured and leaked about 4,000 gallons of coal ash sludge into the Potomac River, according to the Boston Herald.

The spill originated from a small hole in one of NewPage Corp.’s pipelines that cross the Potomac. The leak began about 8 p.m. Sunday night and continued to leak until 6 a.m. Monday morning.

The spill is just a fraction of the size of the one caused when the Tennessee Valley Authority impoundment pond failed and oozed toxic coal ash into a rural Tennessee neighborhood and into the nearby Emory River. But Maryland state regulators are still concerned of the potential environmental problems the leak may cause.

Coal ash could contain high concentrations of selenium, sulfate, arsenic, iron and manganese, which can contribute to serious health problems such as cancer, liver damage and neurological complications. The Tennessee spill has already caused many locals to complain of respiratory problems, and a young child in the area recently tested positive for heavy metals.

The storage and disposal of coal ash is not currently regulated, but Environmental Protection Agency officials have vowed since the TVA spill to draft rules for coal ash storage and disposal.