Issue Date: March 16, 2009
Coal Ash Dump Sites To Be Evaluated
All U.S. electric utilities owning or operating coal-fired power plants must conduct on-site assessments of their coal ash impoundments and dump sites, according to an EPA request for information released last week. The assessments are particularly focused on the structural integrity of the units, which, EPA says, could number 300. EPA says it will also have prepared a proposed national regulation to manage these coal ash impoundments by year’s end. As part of this effort, EPA is sending out ash impoundment surveys that require responses by power-plant officials within 10 days of their receipt. The facilities also could face on-site visits by EPA inspectors. The ash impoundments are currently regulated under a hodgepodge of state regulations, if regulated at all; there are currently no national regulations. Also there is no national inventory of coal ash waste sites, and according to industry estimates, the number of ash impoundments could far exceed EPA’s estimate. The request for information is due to a massive coal ash spill in late December 2008 at a Tennessee Valley Authority coal-fired power plant in Kingston, Tenn., EPA says. The spill covered 300 acres and could require $825 million in cleanup costs, EPA says (C&EN, Feb. 23, page 44).
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