- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
Since May 2009, the EPA has been conducting on-site assessments of coal ash impoundments and ponds at electric utilities. The agency has been providing copies of the structural integrity assessment reports to each facility, and requesting the facilities implement the reports' recommendations and provide their plans for taking action. The action plans released Thursday address recommendations from assessments of 43 impoundments at 22 facilities. Many of these facilities have already begun implementing the recommendations, the EPA said.
In addition to the action plans released today, EPA is also releasing assessment reports on the structural integrity of an additional 40 coal ash impoundments at 16 facilities across the country. Most of the 40 impoundments have a rating of "high" or "significant" hazard potential, indicating the potential for harm in the event of impoundment failure. A high hazard potential rating means if an impoundment fails, it can cause loss of human life. A significant hazard potential rating means impoundment failure can cause economic loss, environmental damage, or damage to infrastructure.
The action plans are a response to the agency's assessment reports on the structural integrity of these impoundments, which the EPA made public last September. Coal ash was brought prominently to national attention in 2008 when an impoundment holding disposed ash waste generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority broke open, creating a massive spill in Kingston, Tenn., that covered millions of cubic yards of land and river and is regarded as one of the worst environmental disasters of its kind in history. Shortly afterwards, the agency began overseeing the cleanup, as well as investigating the structural integrity of impoundments where ash waste is stored.
The assessment reports have been completed by firms, under contract to the EPA, who are experts in the field of dam integrity, and reflect the best professional judgment of those engineering firms. A draft of these reports has been reviewed by the facilities and the states for factual accuracy. The comments on the draft reports are also posted on the EPA's website. The agency noted it is continuing to review the reports and technical recommendations, and is working with the facilities to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in a timely manner.
Should facilities fail to take sufficient measures, the agency warned, the EPA will take additional action, if the circumstances warrant.