Environmental Protection

EPA Releases 16 Electric Utilities' Plans for Coal Ash Safety

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is releasing action plans developed by 16 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 final assessment reports on the structural integrity of these impoundments that the agency made public in February.

Since May 2009, EPA has been conducting onsite assessments of coal ash impoundments and ponds at electric utilities. The agency 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. The action plans address recommendations from assessments of 40 impoundments at 16 facilities. Many of these facilities have already begun implementing recommendations.

EPA also is releasing assessment reports on the structural integrity of an additional 37 coal ash impoundments at 15 facilities across the country. Most of the 37 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 posted on EPA’s Website. 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, the agency will take additional action, if the circumstances warrant.

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