By Rob Perks
After pressure by NRDC and others, today the Environmental Protection Agency just released the list of 44 "high hazard" coal ash disposal sites around the nation. At the behest of the Department of Homeland Security, the EPA had initially refused to reveal the location of these dangerous dumps, prompting NRDC and our partners to file a Freedom of Information Request in the public interest.
Coal ash sites -- which are less regulated than landfills containing household trash -- contain harmful levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxins, which can leach out slowly and contaminate drinking water sources, or as in the case of the 44 "high hazard" sites, flood nearby communities with a life-threatening wave of toxic sludge as happened last December at the Kingston power plant in Tennessee.
Now we know the 26 communities in 10 states where residents are potentially threatened by coal ash storage ponds. According to the Associated Press, which broke the story, the states, number of sites and endangered communities are:
-North Carolina, 12 (Belmont, Walnut Cove, Spencer, Eden, Mount Holy, Terrell and Arden).
-Arizona, 9 (Cochise, Joseph City).
-Kentucky, 7 (Louisa, Harrodsburg, Ghent and Louisville).
-Ohio, 6 (Waterford, Brilliant and Cheshire).
-West Virginia, 4 (Willow Island, St. Albans, Moundsville, New Haven).
-Illiniois, 2 (Havana, Alton).
-Indiana, 1 (Lawrenceburg).
-Pennsylvania, 1 (Shippingport).
-Georgia, 1 (Milledgeville).
-Montana, 1 (Colstrip).
The EPA wants the public to know that it is in the process of inspecting all of the sites.
"The high hazard potential means there will be probable loss of human life if there is a significant dam failure," said Matt Hale, director of EPA's office of research, conservation and recovery. "It is a measure of what would happen if the dam would fail. It is not a measure of the stability of the dam."
Tell that to the people who lived in this house, downstream of that coal ash pond in Tennessee.