New Interactive Web Tool Gives Citizens Detailed Info about Virginia’s Toxic Coal Ash
Today Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Appalachian Voices, Southern Environmental Law Center, and NC Conservation Network launched the first-ever comprehensive online tool that allows Virginians to find specific information about coal ash impoundments near them. The site, www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org, includes information on the health threats associated with this toxic waste from coal-fired power plants, safety ratings of the coal ash impoundments, and how citizens can take action to call on the Environmental Protection Agency for proper coal ash regulation.
Virginia is one of nine states covered by the site, which is being launched four years after a massive coal ash dam in Kingston, Tenn. catastrophically failed, releasing a billion-gallon wave of coal ash that poisoned some 300 acres, destroyed two dozen homes and filled the Emory River with toxic sludge. The coalition developed the website to call greater attention to the lurking dangers of coal ash in the South, where nearly 450 impoundments hold roughly 118 billion gallons of the toxic waste.
“Coal ash is a threat to our natural resources in Virginia,” stated Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Our rivers and our communities will be safe only when coal ash is moved away from the rivers, and stored in a dry state in properly lined disposal facilities.”
The site features an interactive map and database of 100 coal-fired power plants in the Southeast, color-coded by the amount of damage each would inflict if the coal ash dams were to break, according to EPA. A brief glance at the map shows just how much more work needs to be done to assess these dangers – almost half of the plants in the Southeast have inadequate data for EPA to properly assess the coal ash dams on site. Moreover, many of the plants lack adequate water monitoring data to show whether contamination problems exist at these sites.
The website reveals that only five of Virginia’s 13 power plants have been inspected for dam safety by EPA. Notably, of those dams that are rated in the Southeast, nearly one-third of the plants are “high hazard,” meaning that a dam failure like Kingston would likely cause fatalities.
“There is a great need for more public data on the hazards that unrated plants like this one pose to nearby communities; after all, even a small spill from a plant could do significant harm to the economy and environment of an area,” continued Frank Holleman. “SoutheastCoalAsh.org offers concerned citizens a new way to learn about coal plants near their homes and in their communities that may have dangerous coal ash storage impoundments.”
“It’s been over four years since EPA promised to properly regulate coal ash, but it remains an unregulated toxic waste largely stored in unlined impoundments, much to the detriment of Virginia’s drinking and recreational waters,” continued Sandra Diaz, campaign coordinator at Appalachian Voices. “SoutheastCoalAsh.org provides citizens with the information and tools to communicate directly with EPA and their Congressional Representatives to ask for greater urgency in providing federal protection from toxic coal ash.”
The new website features more than a dozen informational pages detailing the health and environmental hazards of coal ash as well as the current legislative and regulatory environment, active legal battles, links to additional articles, news and more. Every coal-fired power plant in the Southeast has a site-specific page, accessible from the interactive map. One click takes you deeper into the data about each plant to find out if there are any known contamination problems at the coal ash impoundment(s) on site, local action groups you can contact about that plant, as well as other local, state, and regional/federal actions citizens can take.
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