The Washington Post reports today on the sudden emergence of coal ash waste treatment as a high-priority issue in the wake of last month's devastating storage pond break at TVA's Kingston power plant in eastern Tennessee. The disaster has sparked national attention, prompting state and federal regulators and legislators to consider stringent standards to protect public health and the environment.
As pointed out by the WashPost, burning coal produces more than 129 million tons annually of combustion waste -- a concentrated ash that includes toxic elements such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, selenium and mercury -- but federal authorities have yet to establish uniform standards for handling it.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) is quoted in the story: "As we often see in the coalfields across the country, it takes a disaster before we see decisive action."
Apparently, the amount of coal combustion waste produced each year has increased by nearly a third since 1990 -- there are now as many as 1,300 coal ash ponds across the nation. Coal ash has contaminated water in 24 states, according to EPA.
The contamination of drinking water remains a key concern of local residents dealing with the billion gallons of toxic sludge polluting the river and covering communities downstream of TVA's Kingston facility. Some people have been able to get health testing, thanks to funding provided by United Mountain Defense and other organizations -- but many more who want their families tested can't afford the $500 per person fee.
That's why we believe TVA bears responsibility for covering those costs, along with any medical expenses for victims. If you agree, we encourage you to tell that to TVA by taking action on our website. Thank you!