Press Release | July 1, 2009

Immediate Action Needed after NC Tops EPA’s List for High Hazard Coal Ash Waste Sites, says SELC

EPA’s recent finding that North Carolina has the most coal combustion waste sites posing a high hazard to the public—12 of the 44 sites nationwide—requires immediate action by leaders at federal, state and local levels to protect residents, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center. With human lives at stake, inspection and abatement of the hazards should be undertaken and no exacerbation of the current risks should be allowed.
“As evidenced in Tennessee, these coal waste sites pose an immediate safety concern in addition to long-term concern over pervasive water quality and soil contamination,” said Chandra Taylor, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. “Concern over the proximity of these sites to population centers both immediate and downstream should spur immediate action among community leaders now. It’s unacceptable that industrial waste sites are less regulated than household garbage.”
An SELC map shows most of the high hazard coal ash waste sites located in North Carolina’s piedmont region, upstream from many population centers. According to the EPA, a high hazard potential rating indicates that a failure will probably cause loss of human life.
“As the state with the highest number of known high hazard coal ash waste sites nationwide, it’s irresponsible for North Carolina to allow a new power plant without first addressing with the life-cycle risks from the states’ coal burning power plants—from leveling our mountains to get the coal, to fouling our air and waters by burning it, and finally dumping the toxic waste into massive pits that threaten human life,” said John Suttles, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. “This report again makes it clear that from cradle to grave, there is no such thing as clean coal.”
Nearly a quarter of the sites nationwide—and ten of the 12 North Carolina sites–are Duke Energy sites. The remaining two sites in North Carolina belong to Progress Energy Carolinas, Inc.
Under current North Carolina law, surface impoundments for coal combustion waste are not included in solid waste regulations and they are exempt from the Dam Safety Act. Only a federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit is required where or if there is discharge into surface waters of the state.
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Note to editors:
– The Southern Environmental Law Center’s report, “Blueprint to Safeguard the Environment, Public Health & Safety from Coal Waste,” outlines the minimum safeguards necessary.
– Southern Environmental Law Center’s maps showing the location of coal ash waste sites in NC and the Southeast are available.
About Southern Environmental Law Center The Southern Environmental Law Center is the only regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of 40 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. WEB: www.SouthernEnvironment.org FACEBOOK: http://www.fanofselc.org TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/selc_org