Photo Credit: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons
Coal ash, the concentrated, toxic residue of fossil fuel electricity, is going under the microscope.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it's inspecting more than 500 impoundment sites for power plants, in the wake of the December 2008 disaster at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant.
The EPA's information comes a little late. An environmental group, Earthjustice, released the federal agency's list of impoundment sites more than a week earlier, after obtaining the information through the Freedom of Information Act.
The EPA requested information from electric utilities after the Kingston spill, to get a handle on the structural integrity of other surface impoundments.
They received responses from 584 units at 219 facilities in 35 states.
Now, the EPA is conducting on-site assessments of coal ash impoundments and ponds at facilities with a potential hazard rating of "high" or "significant," based on the potential for loss of life or environmental and economic damage.
So far, 194 units have been rated --- 49 units had a High Hazard Potential and 60 units have a Significant Hazard Potential, according to the EPA.
According to Earth Justice, headquartered in Oakland, California, the EPA's investigation discovered almost twice as many coal ash dump sites as had been previously identified.
The EPA says it plans to release inspection reports as they're finalized, and draft rules for coal ash sites by the end of the year.
Let's see who wins the race next time in releasing information to the public.