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| Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C.

Last December, I published some posts following the coal ash spill near the Kingston, Tennessee power plant:

Homeowners Sue TVA for Environmental Spill

TVA – Business Before Regulations

The Problem With Fly Ash Sludge – The Other Shoe Drops

Because there were no federal regulations in place regarding standards for the coal ash holding ponds and little State oversight, power plant administrators were routinely ignoring warnings from inspectors. The spill brought a call for reform through regulations administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. This month, the EPA will be releasing new guidelines aimed at the problem. While that is a good start, there is the fear that they will not really solve the problem:

[S]ome fear the new rules may only cover ash stored in wet ponds, leaving sites many consider the most dangerous in the Hawkeye State unregulated.

A report released last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office laid out several potential options for federal regulations. Included among the possibilities is designating coal ash as a hazardous material if it’s kept wet, and non-hazardous if it’s moved to a dry landfill.

As detailed in my earlier posts, the heavy metals contained in the ash can easily contaminate the groundwater supply by leaching through unlined holding pond walls. Another idea under consideration is for the federal government to regulate the ash as solid waste, which would effectively leave the issue under state control. Let’s hope that environmental science, not politics, carries the day on this important issue.

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