Image via NRDC
A little while back, news spread that the Deptartment of Homeland Security was refusing to reveal the locations of 44 coal ash dump sites--on the grounds that it was a matter of national security. Now, the EPA has revealed the locations of the sites that have a 'high hazard rating'--ash dumps sites where, if a spill were to occur, would likely lead to the deaths of nearby residents. And the list's revealing came none too soon--many found the DOH's argument that the knowledge of ash dump locations could be a threat to security was flimsy at best and downright suspicious at worst. But though the report lists the locations of the potentially life-threatening sites, it still leaves plenty of pertinent information out. Like, for instance, whether or not the structural integrity of the dams currently holding the toxic ash is sound or not. And there are still questions regarding the accuracy and thoroughness of the list, too:
From the NY Times:
"T.V.A. ranked its own dams, and it didn't rank any of its dams 'high hazard,' " said Lisa Evans, a lawyer for Earthjustice. A spokeswoman for the authority, Barbara Martocci, said she did not know who had classified the sites on the list.Hm. So there's no publicly disclosed method for determining whether a site is 'high hazard' or not. Furthermore, the ranking doesn't even seem to take into account risks associated with the ash leeching into groundwater--a well known occurrance with such dumps.
From the Times:
Ms. Evans said dam integrity was not the only or even the central problem with coal ash dump sites. In 2007, an E.P.A. report identified 63 sites in 26 states where the water was contaminated by heavy metals from such dumpsAnd a large number of those obviously didn't make the cut. Strange.
And even when the dangerous dumps are listed 'high hazard', there's no mention of how that correlates to water contamination.
David Merryman of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in Charlotte, N.C., said two of the sites on the "high hazard potential" list discharge into Mountain Island Lake, the primary source of drinking water for 750,000 people in the Charlotte area.
The "list identifies disposal sites in 10 states, including 12 in North Carolina, 9 in Arizona and 7 in Kentucky." So even if the list omits important information, is questionably composed, and generally incomplete, it's probably best to check to make sure there's not a high hazard potential ash resevoir in your backyard--do a quick scan of the EPA's list.