EPA just released CYA plans developed by 22 electric utility facilities with coal ash impoundments, describing the measures the facilities are taking to make their impoundments safer. The action plans are a response to EPA’s assessment reports on the structural integrity of these impoundments that EPA published in September 2009.
Coal ash was brought prominently to national attention in 2008 when a huge hooking impoundment holding millions of tons disposed ash waste generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority broke open, creating a massive spill in Kingston, TN.
TVA’s negligence caused a massive engineering failure, and many regard the catastrophic collapse as one of the worst environmental disasters of its kind in history. Shortly afterwards, EPA began overseeing the billion $$ dollar cleanup, as well as investigating the structural integrity of impoundments where ash waste is stored.
Never one to hesitate to “close the gate long after the cow has left the farm,” EPA has been conducting on-site assessments of coal ash impoundments and ponds at electric utilities since May 2009. EPA provides copies of the structural integrity assessment reports to each facility, and requests the facilities implement the reports’ recommendations and provide their plans for taking action.
EPA’s CYA recommended action plans addresses 43 impoundments at 22 coal fired utility plants. Apparently believing that a billion dollar cleanup would be catastrophic to the corporate stock prices, many of these facilities have already begun implementing EPA’s recommendations.
In addition to the CYA recommended action plans, 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 assessment reports have been completed by firms, under contract to 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 EPA’s Web site. EPA 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, EPA will take additional action, if the circumstances warrant. EPA will continue to provide additional information to the public on the impoundments and facilities as it becomes available.
For more information: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/surveys2/index.htm