Catching Up on Coal Ash

I've been traveling and so am just catching up on what's happening in the world of coal ash pollution.  It just so happens that the issue remains on the front-burner, as evidenced by a few recent news stories.

First, the latest issue of Newsweek has this terrific feature story -- "Toxic Tsunami" -- on the Tennessee coal ash disaster back in December. 

Then there's the AP story yesterday about how consultants hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) say that they found widespread problems with the way the nation's largest public utility is running and maintaining its coal ash storage operations.  According to the consultants, the "necessary systems, controls and culture were not in place" to properly manage coal ash sites at TVA's 11 coal-fired power plants.  Among other problems, the report (linked here) cited a lack of operating or maintanance procedures and failure to conduct annual training for engineers doing inspections.  Ouch!

Also, last weekend the New York Times reported that TVA only recently (perhaps reluctantly?) upgraded all of its coal ash dumps around the country to the EPA's "high hazard" list.  Until news broke about EPA keeping that list secret, TVA had reviewed and rated all of those sites as "low hazard" -- incluing the Kingston ash pond that breached, spilling over a billion gallons of toxic coal ash into the river town of Harriman, Tennessee. 

Tsk, tsk, TVA.