May 18, 2009
The Tennessee Valley Authority just announced that the EPA will take charge of cleaning up its coal ash mess in Tennessee.
“Cleaning up”? This is the very same EPA that dragged its feet for a decade!
Coal ash is a by-product of burning coal in power plants. Each year these plants produce more than 100 million tons of coal ash. Studies done by the EPA before 1999 show how dangerous coal ash sludge is. Yet under Democratic and Republican administrations, nothing was done. The EPA has not even issued a federal regulation on coal ash storage.
It’s just a coincidence, of course, that utility companies have pressured the EPA to allow them to continue dumping it with no provisions to prevent leaks.
In every state, people living close to some 1300 coal-ash waste sites are at higher risk of serious illness, for example, cancer. An average of five sites in more than 20 states leak, allowing heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury to go into the ground and into local streams.
Last December, coal ash from a Tennessee utility company broke through its barriers, creating 300 acres of waste. Coal ash covered an area of about a mile wide by a half mile long. A local EPA representative then declared the drinking water was safe from coal ash contamination. It wasn’t.
Nothing the EPA says about safe water or land is believable – so long as the utility industry calls all the shots, while Congress funds what its energy buddies want.