Environmental Protection

TVA Wet Pond Breach May be a Bigger Problem, EIP Says

Nearly 100 largely unregulated "wet dumps" across the United States that are comparable to the Tennessee Valley Authority's breached site in Harriman, Tenn., for the storage of toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants have a place on one or more of the "worst site" lists for six toxic metals, including arsenic and lead, according to a new data analysis from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

In fact, many of the toxic coal ash "wet dump" sites around the United States appear to pose a greater potential danger than the Tennessee site that is now in the headlines. In the case of deadly arsenic, which has been detected in water polluted by the TVA site disaster in Tennessee, the Stanton Energy Facility in Orlando, Fla., has reported dumping roughly 10 times more of the carcinogen in its site between 2000 and 2006 than the TVA did over the same period in its now ruptured Harriman storage pond site. According to the EIP analysis, at least 20 coal pollution dump sites reported more arsenic in coal ash impoundments than the Kingston site.

The TVA's pollution storage site in Tennessee was found by EIP to be on five of the six toxic chemical lists for the 50 worst coal-fired power plant pollution "wet dumps." A total of five comparable disposal sites showed up on all six of the six worst-site lists for the toxic metals: TVA Widows Creek Fossil Plant, Jackson, Ala.; Duke Energy Gibson Generating Station, Gibson, Ind.; Georgia Power Scherer Steam Electric Generating Plant, Juliette, Ga.; Kentucky Utilities Co Ghent Station, Ghent, Ky.; and Louisville Gas & Electric Co. - Mill Creek Station, Louisville, Ky.

Using industry-reported data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Toxic Reporting Inventory (TRI) data system for 2000-2006 (the latter being the most recent year for which complete data is available), EIP looked at the presence of arsenic, chromium, lead, nickel, selenium, and thallium in the waste at coal ash dumping sites across the nation. EPA has determined that these "surface impoundment" ponds (also known as "wet dumps") are the most likely storage sites to leak pollution into groundwater and surface water, even without a catastrophic failure.

The EIP analysis shows that a total of 13 states were found to have at least three coal-fired power plant "surface impoundment" dumping sites on the six 50-worst toxic chemical lists: Indiana, 11 dumps; Ohio, eight dumps; Kentucky and Alabama seven dumps each; Georgia and North Carolina, six dumps each; West Virginia and Tennessee, four dumps each; Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wyoming, three dumps each.

Lisa Evans, project attorney, EarthJustice, said: "By highlighting the enormous volume of toxic chemicals present in coal ash, which is concentrated at single dump sites throughout the U.S., the EIP report points to the solution -- federal regulations that require containment of the toxic ash produced by every U.S. coal plant. Nothing less will solve this serious problem and stop the ongoing damage to our health and environment." The full EIP report is available online at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org.

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