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Environmentalists Identify Coal Ash Sites, Call for EPA Regulation « The Washington Independent

A new report by a coalition of environmental groups identifies 39 sites in 21 states where coal ash — a potentially toxic byproduct of coal-fired power production — is being dumped. The groups say that the coal ash is “contaminating drinking water or surface water with arsenic and other heavy metals.”

The sponsors of the report — the Sierra Club, the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice — say it shows “that state governments are not adequately monitoring the coal combustion waste (CCW) disposal sites and that the USEPA needs to enact strong new regulations to protect the public.” The report comes on the heels of a Feb. 2010 report by the groups that identified 31 coal ash disposal sites in 14 states. Add the 67 coal ash sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the total number of sites that have been identified across the country comes to 137.

Jeff Stant — director of the Coal Combustion Waste Initiative at the Environmental Integrity Project — said the report shows the need for the Environmental Protection Agency to adequately regulate coal ash. “The case for a national regulation setting common sense safeguards for states to meet, such as liners, monitoring and cleanup standards, could not be more persuasive,” he said in a statement. “The need for more direct EPA involvement is clear; leaving enforcement to the same states that have refused to do their jobs for the last 40 years is simply not a responsible course of action.”

The report comes as EPA has scheduled seven public hearings in August and September on its proposal to regulate coal ash.

As I’ve noted before, coal ash first became a part of the public discourse following a massive spill of the substance from a containment pond in Tennessee in 2008. A break in the pond spilled more than 1 billion gallons of coal ash, which included a number of potentially toxic metals.

According to the EPA, its coal ash proposal will “ensure for the first time that protective controls, such as liners and ground water monitoring, are in place at new landfills to protect groundwater and human health.” In addition, “the proposed regulations will ensure stronger oversight of the structural integrity of impoundments and promote environmentally safe and desirable forms of recycling coal ash, known as beneficial uses.”

For more information on the EPA proposal and the upcoming hearings, click here.

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