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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Environment - "Indiana leads nation in coal ash ponds"

The ILB has a long list of earlier posts on coal ash, most recently re the massive February Duke coal ash spill in North Carolina -- these quotes from a NYT story titled "Coal Ash Spill Shows How a State Watchdog Was Defanged" are worth rereading. Earlier, there was the massive spill in Tennessee...

Today, Ryan Sabalow reports in a long story on the front-page of the Indianapolis Star - some quotes:

Even though Indiana has the most coal-ash ponds of any state in the nation and a troubling number of spills, state environmental regulators have done little to address the ongoing problems of how to dispose of coal waste.

So contends a new report by the Hoosier Environmental Council, which is calling on the federal government to step in and do what Indiana so far has been reluctant to do: Come up with stringent standards on how to dispose of the wastes left over from burning coal.

In its report released today called "Our Waters at Risk," the council says Indiana electric utilities generated 6.6 million tons of coal ash in 2012. Much of that ash — which is known to contain toxins such as arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury and chromium — ends up a Indiana's 84 coal ash ponds, the most of any state in the nation.

"It's a huge, unregulated source of surface-water pollution, as well as the ash in the ponds percolating down through the unlined ground beneath them and contaminating groundwater," said the report's primary author, Tim Maloney, the group's senior policy director. * * *

The worst examples noted in the report include roughly 60 million gallons of coal ash sludge spilling into the West Fork of the White River near Martinsville in 2007 and 2008 when a levee twice failed at Indianapolis Power and Light's Eagle Valley power plant. The report also described how private water wells were so contaminated by coal ash waste from two decades of pollution in Town of Pines near Michigan City that the federal government declared much of the town a Superfund site.

Maloney's report says that the reason for all these problems is simple enough: The dams and embankments that keep Indiana's coal ash ponds from spilling are almost entirely not inspected. Plus, at many sites, Indiana environmental regulators don't set limits on the runoff that discharges from the ponds into waterways, and many of the ponds that contain the sludge aren't lined with material that would prevent seepage into groundwater.

Of 17 coal-fired power plants in Indiana that dispose of ash in ponds, the report highlights Indianapolis Power and Light's Harding Street Generation Station's power plant on the city's Southside as a particularly troublesome example.

Here is the Coal Ash report, and other links, via the HEC site.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 6, 2014 09:01 AM
Posted to Environment