The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Appalachian Voices, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the North Carolina Conservation Network have launched a new website about coal ash impoundments.
SoutheastCoalAsh.org includes information on the health threats associated with coal ash and how citizens can advocate for strong federal safeguards. It has an interactive map so users can click on specific facilities near them.
The online tool comes four years after the failure of a massive coal ash dam in Kingston,Tennessee.
Georgia has 41 coal ash impoundments at 11 plants. Ulla Reeves with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy,says the website provides information that is extremely hard to get.
“We are telling people how many impoundments are on site at a particular coal ash plant. We’re telling them what the EPA dam hazard rating is. We’re telling them how old the coal ash pond is, how big it is, how much capacity it holds. How high the dam is.”Reeves says.
She says “This website is a tremendous resource in terms of the basic background of what coal ash is and why people ought to be concerned. And we hope that through this website people will realize that we have a much bigger problem and that we’re not adequately addressing it right now.”
She wants the public to get more engaged in making sure these facilities are safe. The disaster in Kingston poisoned 300 acres, destroyed two dozen homes and filled the Emory River with toxic sludge.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates coal ash impoundments, says EPA is aware of the concerns around coal ash management and disposal and the agency is committed to protecting people’s health and the environment in a responsible manner. In response to Kingston, EPA initiated a structural integrity assessment program to operate in parallel with the rulemaking process. The program seeks to identify the structural integrity deficiencies of coal ash impoundments and work with facilities to correct these deficiencies.
EPA says it is following established rulemaking procedures and requirements in the development of this rule. EPA is reviewing the more than 450,000 comments received on the proposed rule and will finalize the rule pending a full evaluation of all the information and comments the Agency received on the proposal.
Georgia Power, which operates several coal ash impoundments in the state says they have been safely operating in Georgia for decades, and the facilities are regularly inspected.