Sunday, December 28, 2008

The broken Fed commitment behind the Tenn. coal ash disaster

When Earthjustice Attorney Lisa Evans testified earlier this year before a congressional committee about the looming threat from coal combustion waste, she warned that the federal government's broken pledge to regulate disposal of the potentially dangerous material threatened the health and safety of communities across the country.

It's still too early to know exactly what the long-term extent and impact of the contamination from the Kingston disaster will be, since authorities have said cleanup could take months and even years. But as Evans testified earlier this year, environmental health threats related to coal combustion waste -- particularly wet waste stored in lagoons like the one at the Kingston plant -- have already been documented at sites around the country, including:

* contaminated public and private drinking water supplies in at least eight states, including Georgia;

* fish consumption advisories issued in Texas and North Carolina; and* documented infertility and other abnormalities in nearly 25 species of amphibians and reptiles inhabiting coal combustion waste-contaminated wetlands in South Carolina.

Evans also noted more recent news reports of coal combustion waste contamination discovered in Maryland, Indiana and Montana. And when developers used 1.5 million tons of coal ash to build a golf course over a shallow aquifer in Chesapeake, Va., nearby wells almost immediately began showing elevated boron levels -- a marker for coal combustion waste contamination.

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