Coal ash spill upriver of Washington DC delivers message in new way

New Page paper mill in Luke, MD


The Associated Press is reporting today that most of the slurry spill from the New Page plant hit the riverbank on the West Virginia side of the river, rather than entering the river directly. Bullet dodged? Perhaps, until the next really good rainstorm...


Sometimes there's just no way to hide the need for regulation.

The Maryland Department of the Environment just reported that a ruptured pipeline carrying wet coal ash has spilled 4,000 gallons of the toxic-laden stuff into the North Branch of the Potomac River, in Luke, MD.

I don't know how long it'll take for the spill to reach DC proper, but its a hell of a way to send a message about how much we need to regulate the handling of this stuff. All the more reason to thank the Obama Administration for announcing plans to propose federal regulations for coal waste.

Got a suggestion for tracking the spill as it flows toward Washington DC? Let us know and we'll promote it here.

Here is a picture of the plant site from Google Earth. Note that the MD Department of Environment release indicates that the plant's coal slurry ponds are across the river in West Virginia, and that while the broken pipeline is shut down, ones parallel to it are carrying the slurry. So here's a case where the coal slurry is being piped over a river to its storage pond, surely a high-risk way of managing the waste.

It is also worth noting that while the vast majority of attention in the coal waste debate goes to power plants, there are a number of plants - like this paper mill - that include coal-power plants to provide electricity for the operation. Such sources of coal combustion waste should be included in federal regulations, just like regular coal plants.