DEP Inspects Its Coal Ash Slurry Basins

In the wake of a disastrous Dec. 22 coal ash impoundment failure in Tennessee, the Department of Environmental Protection is re-inspecting all coal ash slurry basins in Pennsylvania, according to Acting Secretary John Hanger.

The re-inspections are expected to be completed by the end of January.

"We are committed to doing everything in our power to avoid a similar catastrophe and to protect the health and safety of Pennsylvanians living near these structures," Hanger said.

The basins hold ash that is removed from the combustion units of coal-fired power plants and stored prior to reuse or disposal.

Pennsylvania has 10 coal ash slurry basins that are large enough to require dam permits. Five of those basins are classified as "high-hazard" dams, or those which pose a risk to lives or property in the unlikely event of a dam failure.

Hanger also ordered the re-inspection of 31 other high-hazard waste impoundments, most containing coal slurry, over the next six months. In addition, the department will inspect a Westmoreland County dam containing chemical sludge in this month.

"While all five of the high-hazard dams in the state have been inspected in the last year by the owner's engineer as required by law and by the department, I want to make sure that our department is taking the precautions necessary to keep our communities, businesses, and families safe," Hanger added.

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