Coal Ash News and Media

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NC Lawmakers Come Up Short on Coal Ash

Bryant and Sherry Gobble live next door to one of Duke Energy's coal ash impoundment at the Buck Steam Station in Dukeville, NC. Duke and North Carolina environmental regulators have known since 2011 that the dumpsite has been polluting groundwater with toxic substances, but have taken no action to stop pollution or warn neighbors of the danger. Photo source: AP

Bryant and Sherry Gobble live next door to one of Duke Energy’s coal ash impoundment at the Buck Steam Station in Dukeville, NC. Duke and North Carolina environmental regulators have known since 2011 that the dumpsite has been polluting groundwater with toxic substances, but have taken no action to stop pollution or warn neighbors of the danger. Photo source: AP

In the days and weeks after the Dan River disaster, North Carolina legislators made bold promises to protect the public from dangerous and polluting coal ash sites. Since May there’s been several stops and starts on coal ash legislation, and for a time it looked like the General Assembly would fail to pass any legislation.

Instead, the General Assembly passed a bill last night that falls far short of the protections North Carolinians desperately need. In the early days of this legislative session, we were hopeful that North Carolina lawmakers were going to put forth a strong bill to force Duke Energy to clean up all of its polluting sites.

Unfortunately, the bill they passed actually undermines current groundwater protection laws, fails to clean up 10 of North Carolina’s dangerous and polluting coal ash impoundments and lets Duke off the hook for the harm their dumpsites are causing communities and waterways statewide. As a News & Observer recent Editorial aptly stated, Senate Bill 729 “proposes to solve the coal ash problem by declaring it not a problem. Or, at least not an urgent problem.”

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Kingston Recovery Continues: TVA Pays $27.8 Million to Coal Ash Spill Victims

Chris Copeland standing on the coal ash that destroyed his home near TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant.

Chris Copeland standing on the coal ash that destroyed his home near TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant.

Last week the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) finally agreed to pay $27.8 million to more than 800 property owners who suffered damage from the massive 2008 Kingston coal ash spill. The spill is one the largest of it’s kind in US history, and spread over one billion gallons of toxic coal ash over 300 acres of aquatic ecosystems, farmlands and neighborhoods. TVA previously purchased over 180 properties in the spill area for approximately $147 million, and while this is likely to be the last wave of settlements, the impacts of this disaster will continue to be felt for decades to come.

We applaud TVA for finally compensating those directly impacted by the spill, while recognizing that the surrounding community, rivers and environment will never be the same and that residents in Perry County, AL who received much of the Kingston ash waste have yet to be compensated for their pollution burdens from this disaster.

As long as our utilities continue burning coal without proper regulations and oversight for their coal ash dumpsites, communities nationwide remain at risk from devastating coal ash spills and pollution problems.

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Lynn Ringenberg, M.D.: Coal Ash Pollution Needs Tighter Regulation

This post originally appeared in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on August 5, 2014. You can access the original article here

Coal ash impoundments at Tampa Electric Company's Big Bend Power station are unlined and right on Tampa Bay--a typical example of Florida's coal ash situation.

Coal ash impoundments at Tampa Electric Company’s Big Bend Power station are unlined and right next to Tampa Bay and are a typical example of Florida’s coal ash dumpsites.

By Lynn Ringenberg, MD

A national epidemic has come to Florida. It is a silent threat, growing every day. Pollution contaminates our waters, poisons our fish and wildlife and increases our risk of cancer and other diseases.

The culprit is coal ash, and here in Florida we generate more than six million tons of this toxic waste every year, making our state seventh in the nation for coal ash generation. Even though it’s full of dangerous contaminants, coal ash is even less regulated than our household garbage.

In February, a coal ash pond in North Carolina ruptured, sending 140,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River along the Virginia border. In 2008, a coal ash pond in Tennessee burst, sending more than one billion gallons of coal ash into the Clinch and Emory Rivers and damaging 40 nearby homes. While the coal ash problem in Florida isn’t as obvious, it is still just as dangerous.

Coal ash is the waste left over when coal is burned for electricity. In 2007, power plants nationwide generated 140 million tons of this waste — enough to fill a line of train cars stretching from the North Pole to the South Pole. Many power plants simply dump their coal ash into unlined and unmonitored pits. There are no federal regulations ensuring safe disposal and handling of this waste, so coal ash can often contaminate nearby lakes, rivers, streams and drinking water aquifers with toxic pollutants. Across the country, coal ash has contaminated water at more than 200 sites.

Florida’s most recent instance of contamination is along the Apalachicola River. On June 5, environmental groups sued Gulf Power Company for illegally discharging coal ash into the river at its Scholz Electric Generating Plant, a violation of the Clean Water Act. Water tests near the coal ash dumps found that arsenic levels coming out of the unlined pits were 300 times higher than federal safety standards. High levels of cadmium, chromium — well known carcinogens — as well as lead, selenium and mercury were also found.

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Leaving Coal Ash In Place Is Not A Cleanup Plan

With legislature’s failure to pass strong coal ash bill, DENR and Duke must fulfill cleanup obligation

Duke Energy's illegal pumping of coal ash wastewater into the Cape Fear River is just one example of their negligence and lack of consideration for public health and the environment.

Duke Energy’s illegal pumping of coal ash wastewater into the Cape Fear River is just one example of their negligence and lack of consideration for public health and the environment.

August 1, 2014 –In spite of 11th hour negotiations Thursday night, the North Carolina House and Senate failed to come to agreement on their weak, incomplete coal ash management bills, putting the impetus back on Duke Energy and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to remove coal ash from unlined pits near waterways.

The Senate proposed an inadequate bill back in June; the House significantly weakened that proposal; and ultimately, the conference committee found itself at a stalemate to address North Carolina’s coal ash problem.

“This is a multi-layered failure of leadership. Both chambers failed to offer the comprehensive cleanup plan they promised at the outset of session,” said Donna Lisenby, global coal campaign coordinator for Waterkeeper Alliance. “Then they failed to take any action at all. We hope that lawmakers’ return in November will be a reboot of priorities. All North Carolina communities need protection from coal ash.”

Aging, unlined coal ash lagoons are leaching arsenic, chromium, mercury, lead, cadmium, boron, and other pollutants into rivers, streams and groundwater at every single Duke Energy facility in this state. Under public pressure, Duke Energy has already publicly volunteered to move ash from the Dan River, Riverbend, Sutton and Asheville facilities into lined landfills away from waterways. In the absence of clear directives from the legislature, they must keep that promise.

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NC’s Coal Ash Disaster: 6 Months Later

Local kids play in the Dan River at Draper Landing, where sediment samples show toxic coal ash deposits lurking just below the water's surface. Photo source: Greensboro News & Record

Local kids play in the Dan River at Draper Landing, where sediment samples show toxic coal ash deposits lurking just below the water’s surface. Photo source: Greensboro News & Record

Six months ago some of our worst fears became true (for a second time) when 140,000 tons of coal ash and contaminated wastewater spilled into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina. As the spill continued for almost 2 weeks, a dark grey plume travelled 70 miles downstream threatening drinking water supplies and the river’s long-term health. Unlike other pollutants that can break down in the environment over time, heavy metal-laden ash settles to the river bed and the toxics can reenter the water column, get stirred up during flooding, and be taken up into the food chain as long as ash remains.

Duke Energy said they would take full responsibility and clean up the spill, with CEO Lynn Good stating in April 2014, “We are now continuing to work at cleaning up the river, and we will stay there until that is resolved.”

 So far, Duke Energy has removed 6% of its ash from the Dan as required by EPA. While short-term clean up efforts have ceased, the job of remediating this spill is far from over. 

Continued pressure is needed on EPA, Duke and the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) to ensure that every possible opportunity is taken to continue clean up efforts and protect Duke’s neighbors, the public, and the environment at all of NC’s coal ash dumpsites.

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Coal Ash Removal Underway by Santee Cooper in Conway, S.C.

 

Ash removed from Santee Cooper's coal ash impoundments will be responsibly recycled or disposed of in lined, dry storage away from waterways.

Ash removed from Santee Cooper’s coal ash impoundments will be responsibly recycled or disposed of in lined, dry storage away from waterways.

July 30, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –According to the first Santee Cooper coal ash removal report released this week, Santee Cooper has removed over 42,000 tons from its unlined coal ash lagoons on the banks of the Waccamaw River in Conway, South Carolina. The removal is part of a settlement reached between Santee Cooper and citizen groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center — the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

“Santee Cooper is carrying out its obligations and removing coal ash from Conway and the banks of the Waccamaw River in South Carolina,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the groups in the litigation. “The end result will be restored wetlands and a safer, cleaner Conway and Waccamaw. Duke Energy should follow Santee Cooper’s example by cleaning up all of its coal ash in North and South Carolina —moving the coal ash to safer, dry, lined storage away from rivers and waterways.”

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Toxic Coal Ash Puts Apalachicola River at Risk

This post originally appeared in the Apalachicola and Carrabelle Times on July 9, 2014. You can access the original piece here

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The Apalachicola River supports one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the nation.

Early this year, the picturesque Dan River in North Carolina was hit by a devastating toxic spill that spread 70 miles downstream, poisoning the water and everything in it. Why am I telling you about an environmental disaster which happened hundreds of miles away from us?

Because our own Apalachicola River is vulnerable to the same series of events, and we need to do everything we can to prevent this from happening here.

The hazardous coal ash that fouled the Dan River was stockpiled at a Duke Energy coal-fired power plant site. Like other power companies, Duke stores the hazardous ash that’s left over from burning coal in huge, unlined pits. When a pipe at the Duke plant failed, 140,000 tons of coal ash and contaminated wastewater went into the river.

We have toxic coal ash stockpiled along the Apalachicola, at Gulf Power Company’s Scholz Generating Plant near Sneads. And it is leaking into the river. In June 2013, samples of bright orange contamination leaking out of the pits contained arsenic at levels 300 times the amount considered safe for drinking water.

Besides poisonous arsenic, the coal ash also contains toxics like cadmium, and chromium – well-known carcinogens – as well as aluminum, barium, beryllium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc, selenium, and the neurotoxin mercury.

This is a public hazard. On June 4, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Waterkeeper Alliance filed a federal lawsuit against Gulf Power under the Clean Water Act. The public-interest law firm Earthjustice is representing us in the suit.

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Coal Ash and Summer Fun Just Don’t Mix

TubingFBR

Is there any better way to beat the heat than a trip down a lazy river?

This post is authored by Joan Walker and was originally published on SACE’s Clean Energy Footprints blog

If you’re anything like me, this is the time of year when you’re gearing up to get out on your favorite waterway for some summer fun. Whether you’re tubing, paddling, fishing, swimming or just taking in the scenery; our region’s rivers, lakes and streams are the perfect place to cool off and enjoy the great outdoors!

Waterways are also vitally important to our communities and economy; with rivers alone providing drinking water for over 65% of Americans and generating $86 billion a year in economic activity. As National Rivers Months draws to an end, it’s important not only to get out and enjoy the amazing waterways we’re blessed with in the Southeast, but to also take action to protect our waterways from threats like toxic coal ash.

You’ve likely heard about the Dan River coal ash spill that happened this February and all the news about North Carolina’s coal ash that’s come to light since then. Right now, the North Carolina Legislature is moving a bill that could help clean up the state’s coal ash dumpsites (if you live in NC, click here to ask your elected officials to make necessary improvements to this bill).

But coal ash isn’t just a problem in North Carolina, the Southeast is home to over 450 toxic dumpsites that threaten communities and the waterways we all love and depend on. 

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Coal Ash Legal Fight Moves to Florida

On any given day you can find people boating and fishing on the Apalachicola just downstream of the Scholz dumpsites.

On any given day you can find people boating and fishing on the Apalachicola just downstream of the Scholz dumpsites.

With all the news following the Dan River coal ash disaster this February, it may seem that North Carolina is the only Southeastern state with coal ash woes. Unfortunately, there are plenty of problems to go around with at least 450 ash dumpsites scattered across our region. Many of these are aging, unlined, wet storage impoundments located on vital water resources and drinking water supplies, just like those on the Dan River.

To date, little attention has been given to Florida’s coal ash problems, even though it’s home to 78 ash impoundments. That is changing, however, as SACE recently teamed up with our partners at Earthjustice, Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Apalachicola Riverkeeper to investigate the impoundments at Gulf Power’s Scholz Generating Station, located on the banks of the Apalachicola River, which supports a multi-billion dollar seafood industry and one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the country.

Our testing revealed illegal seeps pouring high concentrations of toxic heavy metals into the river, and last week we filed a federal federal lawsuit to stop Gulf’s pollution and protect the Apalachicola. 

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Conservationists Sue To Stop Toxic Coal Ash Pollution Leaking Into Apalachicola River

ScholzTALLAHASSEE — On behalf of three conservation groups, Earthjustice has filed a federal lawsuit to stop toxic water pollution that is leaking into the Apalachicola River from an aging 40-acre coal ash dump at Gulf Power Company’s Scholz Generating Plant near Sneads, Florida. The groups say Gulf Power is illegally discharging dangerous pollutants—including arsenic and lead—into the river, threatening people and the environment in the most ecologically-diverse area of the southern U.S.

Gulf Power, a subsidiary of the $38-billion Southern Company, has flushed millions of gallons of toxic coal ash sludge into 40 acres of unlined pits that sit atop a bluff along the Apalachicola River. The groups say the waste is leaking out of the pits and into the river, contaminating the water with pollutants including arsenic, cadmium, and chromium – all well-known carcinogens – as well as aluminum, barium, beryllium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc, selenium, and the neurotoxin mercury.

One test, in June 2013, found that arsenic levels coming out of the unlined pits were 300 times the amount of arsenic considered safe for drinking water. Earthjustice filed its Clean Water Act suit in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, Fl. on behalf of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Apalachicola Riverkeeper.

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9/15/2010- 60 Minutes Video: 130 Million Tons of Waste

11/6/2011- Scientific American Podcast: Buried in Coal Ash?

6/28/2012- Environmental Integrity Report: New EPA Data Show Coal Ash Problem Much Worse

7/5/2012- Rachel Maddow Show segment: Big Sister Steamed Bun