Do you live near one of these? Photo via Delaware Online
Over the last 10 years, there have been 34 coal ash spills--some were famous catastrophes, like the one in Tennessee, while others have flown relatively under the radar. And a brand new federal survey has revealed that there are now a staggering 600 coal ash sites in 35 states across the country. Do you live near one of them?There's actually a pretty good chance that you do--especially if you live in the Southeast, the Midwest, or Texas. This comprehensive list of coal ash sites from the EPA shows that there are many in states like Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Georgia. But there are also sites in places like Los Angeles and the Four Corners in Arizona.
And perhaps the scariest thing about the toxic ash is that as of now, there are no federal regulations for disposing the stuff and maintaining the storage sites. The EPA does recognize that coal ash is hazardous to human health, and list 67 cases where it has contaminated water. Environmental groups feel that this isn't enough, and that there should be distinct regulations imposed on the "ash ponds" where the toxic byproducts are stored to ensure that there aren't spills or leeching into the surrounding environment.
According to the AP, the EPA said that it is considering broader regulation, but also reported that there were no issues "requiring immediate attention" at the 584 ash storage sites it examined. But the prospect of another coal ash spill covering hundreds of acres with toxic sludge is enough to keep anyone concerned. The EPA should bring the hammer down on ash storage sites, and begin strict regulation, and treat the stuff for what it is: toxic materials that are hazardous to both people and the environment.