Toxic Coal Ash

This is a link to a "60 minutes" Video:
The middle section is about Coal Ash...

The Coal Ash is full of Arsenic and Lead and Mercury but the Marketing Spin is that it is basically the same content as "dirt".
That is clearly a lie...  but somehow it was decided that it was ok to build a golf course on top of it.

UPDATE: March 23, 2011   (Please read the article at the bottom of this webpage..)
All of a sudden:  I mean, within 3 the EPA can say....17,000 avoidable deaths each year.....
So, another way to say this is 17,000 semi-intention deaths each year for the past 20+ years.  These deaths are considered collateral damage just so that the electrical plants could stay profitable?
      Mr Smithers (from the TV show The Simpsons) is in fact a real Archetype (it would seem..).

  "The 946-page EPA ruling mandates that new air quality standards prohibit up to 91 percent of mercury emissions from being released by coal combustion. Due to the proposed limitation of mercury and other particulate matter from being released into the air, an estimated 17,000 premature deaths can be prevented each year, according to the EPA. Mercury is a known carcinogen that is especially devastating to children, causing damage to the nervous system and inducing developmental defects such as reduced IQ and mental retardation."

I guess that is unimaginable that we could require that 100% of the Mercury be disposed of properly?
Does that extra 9% represent  that another 1,500 deaths per year?  or would the 100% requirement save many, many more lives..

You must understand that the Mercury is cumulative...It can bounce around the ecosystem and build up  (Like dust bunnies under the  furniture in a house that has hardwood floors... and pets...).

Naturally, this Toxic Industrial by-product should not be mixed into rugs and bowling balls and spread all over the place...BUT...the documentation is building that this knee-jerk behavior is also part of a much larger pattern.

It seems that we do not fix problems that actually need fixing...(Like what to do with Industrial Toxic waste).
 We fix problems that block us from making paper money profits... so intellectual effort is given to finding some inexpensive (again paper money) way to get the waste out of sight.
In hindsight, it is usually clear the the expedient solution was a bad idea....and then apologies are made...we cover up the mess and we all move on...  (many times we physical move away, since the toxics are of course....toxic).

Sustainability, at every level...and then everyone will be able to sleep at night...

It may not be easy to figure out how to make our culture Sustainable,  but we have a good history of figuring out complicated problems...

The rule should be....If you make a mess, you have to clean it up..   It is really as simple as that.

The dangers of Coal Ash were minimized by EPA under the Bush administration.  "Beneficial Use" is some crazy legal term that allows the Coal Ash to be mixed in all kinds of products...  (and yet in the media, we have the audacity to criticize similar Chinese Policies).   The Coal Ash is not regulated at this time and there is a massive amount being generated by the utility industry every day.  48% of the electricity in the US is generated from Coal..

So,  Would it be possible for us to cut our consumption by 50%?

Is it possible for you to cut your electric bill by 50%?
It would take some effort for sure...   (Remember only 100 years ago there were no power plants...).

We could still have Computers and TVs and refrigerators and freezers and cell phones...
The Telephone companies and the companies in the Silicon Vally are already making big efforts to save electricity since they understand that this consumption needs to be minimized as much as possible...
They call these programs "Green Initiatives".

There is so much waste...We could easily cut it in half.  We just need to give it some thought and focus...
We just need to make it a priority....

Read the following article:
You may feel like minimizing you excess consumption once you begin to realize its' real cost..

Tennessee Valley Authority disaster in Kingston...

Tennessee Valley Coal Ash Spill Buries 400 Acres, Damages Homes      
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, December 23, 2008 (ENS) - A retaining wall at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston coal-fired power plant collapsed early Monday morning, causing 2.6 million cubic yards of fly ash to be spilled across hundreds of acres.

The Kingston Steam Plant in Harriman, about 50 miles west of Knoxville, at the confluence of the Emory and Clinch Rivers is owned and operated by the nation's largest public utility.

The wet gray sludge buried about 400 acres six feet deep. One house was torn from its foundations, and 11 other homes were damaged and evacuated. No injuries or fatalities have been reported.

TVA estimates that the cleanup could take weeks to complete and says long-term plans are being developed. Environmentalists warn that fly ash contains toxins - mercury, arsenic, and lead among others - that could seep into the ground and flow downriver.

The wet fly ash engulfed this house, one of 12 damaged in the spill. (Photo courtesy Tennessee Valley Authority)

TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore said today, "Protecting the public, our employees, and the environment is TVA's primary concern as we supply electric power for the people of Tennessee Valley region."

"We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide and damage to nearby homes," said Kilgore. "We are grateful no injuries have been reported, and we will take all appropriate actions to assist those affected by this situation."

TVA provided hotel rooms, meals, transportation and other immediate needs for affected residents who were not able to occupy their homes Monday night. Additional assistance is being provided by TVA as needed by affected residents. Electricity, gas and water have been restored to all homes in the area that are habitable, the TVA said.

The Swan Pond Road past the Kingston plant remains closed except for residents who live in the area whose homes are habitable. There is no estimated timeline for when the road will be reopened.

TVA Police are assisting local law enforcement with maintaining security for the homes in the affected area.

Heavy equipment including bulldozers, dump trucks, and backhoes have been brought to the site and some clearing of debris has started.

Kingston is one of TVA's larger fossil plants. It generates 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to supply the needs of about 670,000 homes in the Tennessee Valley. An adequate supply of coal is available and all nine units at Kingston continue to operate.

"This holiday disaster shows that there really isn't such a thing as a clean coal plant," said Chandra Taylor, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

"From mountaintop removal mining to smokestacks spewing soot and smog to ash ponds full of toxins, coal power is dirty - plain and simple. Nobody wants to find coal in their Christmas stocking, let alone coming through their home and polluting their river," she said.

TVA says sampling of water downstream of the plant will continue to assess the possible effects on water quality. TVA continues to manage river flows on the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers to minimize downstream movement of the ash. There are no expected impacts to any other TVA facilities downstream.

Staff at TVA's other 10 coal-fired power plants have made visual inspections of the ash retention dikes to note any changes in conditions. The ash containment areas at all TVA's plants undergo a formal inspection annually and other inspections on a quarterly and daily basis, said the government company.

"The United States Environmental Protection Agency should immediately establish national safeguards for the disposal of coal wastes and enforceable regulations," said Taylor. "At a minimum, these safeguards should include siting restrictions, structural requirements and long-term financial assurance to clean up any resulting pollution."




I am sure that Concrete sleepers are better that Creosote treated lumber...but not if the concrete is mixed with Toxic Coal Ash.

In 100 years the concrete dust that is laced with heavy metals would be another problem that someone will need to be clean up...  (Never 100% clean again though..)

Working on the railroad? Using concrete could help environment

May 7, 2009
Working on the railroad? Using concrete could help environment

Concrete railway cross ties could be an eco-friendly alternative to those made of wood, scientists report. Credit: Tomasz Sienicki

Wood or concrete? Railroads around the world face that decision as they replace millions of deteriorating cross ties, also known as railway sleepers, those rectangular objects used as a base for railroad tracks. A new report concludes that emissions of carbon dioxide — one of the main greenhouse gases contributing to global warming -- from production of concrete sleepers are up to six times less than emissions associated with timber sleepers. The study is scheduled for the June 1 issue of ACS’Environmental Science & Technology.

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In the study, Robert Crawford points out that there have been long-standing concerns about environmental consequences of manufacturing railway sleepers because it involves harvesting large amounts of timber. Reinforced concrete sleepers are an alternative that offer greater strength, durability and long-term cost savings, he said. Critics of using concrete sleepers have charged that their manufacture increases greenhouse gas emissions as it involves higher consumption of fuel when compared to production of wood sleepers.

Crawford studied the greenhouse gas emissions of wooden and reinforced concrete sleepers based on one kilometer (0.62 miles) length of track over a 100-year life cycle. He found that emissions from reinforced concrete sleepers can be from two to six times lower than those from timber. “The results suggest strongly that reinforced concrete sleepers result in lower life cycle greenhouse emissions than timber sleepers,” the report states.

More information: “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Embodied in Reinforced Concrete and Timber Railway Sleepers”, Environmental Science & Technology

Provided by American Chemical Society (news : web)



Now, Why in the world would a utility intentionally build an ash pond and NOT Line it with some non pours material so that it does not "

leech sulfites, heavy metals and other carcinogens into nearby groundwater," ?

This is criminal behavior.  Why would they resist even developing an emergency evacuation plan?  (And why is this optional?).

Industry representatives say they will fully comply with the new guidelines, but they lament the financial burden they must impose on their ratepayers to offset the costs.

These are the TRUE costs of the electricity that we have become used to consuming...It has always had a higher price than we are used to paying (because most of the cost has been externalized - in the form of pollution..).

March 23, 2011

Something in the air

New EPA air standards prompt rally, industry reaction

Less than a week after the Environmental Protection Agency issued new national mercury and toxic air regulations for power plants, roughly 30 residents of southwest Jefferson County — home to LG&E’s Cane Run Road coal-fired power plant and EPA-designated “high-hazard” coal ash pond — gathered to rally for cleaner air and protest the utility’s ongoing intention to build a new 5.7 million-square-foot ash landfill near low-income residential neighborhoods located there.

As a result, residents could get the chance to voice their concerns with the Kentucky House of Representatives’ Natural Resources and Environment Committee and its longtime chairman, coal industry darling Jim Gooch, D-Providence, who is considering holding an interim session in southwest Jefferson County this summer.

Calls to Gooch’s Frankfort and home offices were not returned.

“I’m very hopeful,” says state Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville. “It’s a first step, and I’m very grateful that (Gooch is) giving me this opportunity to show the folks on the committee how a lot of people in Kentucky are living. I know that on a lot of environmental issues we see things very, very differently, but I think that all of us can put ourselves in the place of folks who walk out onto their front porch every day and see this.”

By “this,” Jenkins means the smokestacks of the Cane Run plant and its neighboring ash ponds, which are not lined and, as a result, leech sulfites, heavy metals and other carcinogens into nearby groundwater, according to testing conducted by the Kentucky Division of Waste Management and Kentucky Waterways Alliance.

Nonetheless, Jenkins remains optimistic about Gooch’s intentions despite his committee’s refusal during the regular session of the general assembly to hear her House Bill 237, which would have (among other things) mandated that LG&E line its ash ponds and develop an emergency evacuation plan for residents in the event that its pond breach in a fashion similar to the 2008 Kingston, Tenn., spill that inundated surrounding countryside with more than 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal sludge — enough to fill 1,660 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Due to Gooch’s track record, some don’t share Jenkins’ optimism.

“I don’t really have high expectations, to tell you the truth,” says Sarah Adkins, a graphic designer from Pleasure Ridge Park who attended last week’s rally. “I’m well aware of how the Kentucky legislature feels about environmental problems, so I’m not expecting him to have some sudden moment of redemption once they come here and go, ‘Oh god! Coal ash kills people!’ But I definitely think that maybe (Gooch) and some of the others will become more aware of the fact that there are neighborhoods full of sick people and sick children, and we’re killing them.”

The 946-page EPA ruling mandates that new air quality standards prohibit up to 91 percent of mercury emissions from being released by coal combustion. Due to the proposed limitation of mercury and other particulate matter from being released into the air, an estimated 17,000 premature deaths can be prevented each year, according to the EPA. Mercury is a known carcinogen that is especially devastating to children, causing damage to the nervous system and inducing developmental defects such as reduced IQ and mental retardation.

While the new rules won’t officially take effect until November — and full compliance is still years away — LG&E and local air quality regulators are already busy determining what the effects will be in Jefferson County.

Matt Stull, a spokesman for the Metro Louisville Air Pollution Control District, says that, if anything, the new standards will potentially strengthen the city’s regulation of mercury emissions, which the APCD does not currently monitor.

“It should also be noted that one of the reasons we needed the (Strategic Toxic Air Reduction) program here in Louisville was that the … standards sent down by the federal government weren’t working for us,” Stull says. “They weren’t doing enough to reduce risk from certain toxins. It may very well be that this standard for mercury will not be anything stricter than what we have; however, we can be more strict than the federal government, but we cannot be less.”

Industry representatives say they will fully comply with the new guidelines, but they lament the financial burden they must impose on their ratepayers to offset the costs.

“If you look at it in terms of the bigger picture, with all of the EPA regulations that are coming down the pike, it’s safe to say that will increase costs to customers across the nation,” says Brian Phillips, an LG&E spokesman. “With all of the air and coal combustion byproduct regulations, we’re expecting it’s going to cost us $4 billion to adjust to these regulations by 2019. It’s a lot of expense for compliance, and at the end of the day, we’ll be compliant, and we’ll look at the most cost-effective way to get there, and we’ve even had some results in coal retirements, because we have to balance everything with a regulatory requirement to provide energy in a low cost way.”

Reynolds wouldn’t say whether LG&E would seek a rate increase from the Kentucky Public Service Commission to pay for new guidelines, but suffice it to say his concerns about deferring costs onto customers contrast sharply with those who factor in the hidden costs of coal.

“If I can pay a few more dollars so that my neighbor’s child doesn’t suffer, or that my neighbor doesn’t have to have cancer, I think that’s totally worth it,” Adkins says. “(Environmental regulations are) also going to save us money in the long run, because if people aren’t sick from coal ash, we’re not going to be paying more in tax dollars to pay for their health care costs if they are lower-income people.”

According to a 2009 report published by the National Research Council, the United States loses approximately $120 billion each year in hidden costs associated with burning coal, petroleum, natural gas and even hippified ethanol; most of that amount comes in the form of expensive, taxpayer-subsidized health care services utilized by lower-income individuals living near coal-fired power plants and their requisite ash ponds.

The findings of the National Research Council report were magnified earlier this year when a new study — conducted by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School — bumped that $120 billion figure to nearly half a trillion dollars a year in hidden costs, positing that mountaintop removal mining-ravaged Appalachia alone is robbed of $75 billion annually in terms of the effect of coal pollutants on public health and wellness.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Rep. Jenkins says of the ruling. “My constituents in my district are paying a lot more in terms of their health and property values ... than a lot of other people in Jefferson County, and I think it should be a burden that we all share.” 

April 1, 2011

It seems that the EPA was completely dysfunctional between 2001 and 2008.  (Opinion).

Imagine... A website sponsored by the EPA to PROMOTE adding toxic coal ash into many other products...
Now, just a few years later, the EPA is on the verge of declaring the same Coal Ash as Hazardous Waste.

Did the content of the Coal Ash Change?   No, of course not.
What did change is that some of the high level criminals have been replaced with a few people that are actually looking at the facts.

Public Opinion makes a BIG difference in policy (it seems).
Keep Reading! (and speak up).

The Coal Industry wants the decision to be made by individual States because it is obviously much easier to influence a Governor to make a "toxic" exception than to have it done at the National level.
States like California set the health standard high and State Governors of smaller States can bypass that standard if they have enough incentive...

The truth is that the Safety guidelines should be based on what is safe.... Not on the decisions of temporary Governors with Short term Political Agendas and Corporate loyalties...
Even low levels of Arsenic, Lead, Mercury and other sooty waste should not be intentionally mixed into other materials just because we need to get rid of it....

We don't really even need a study to determine how much extra Arsenic or Lead or Mercury (or Natural Gas Carcinogenic Fracturing fluid) that we want to ingest.
Many people do not want to have to ingest ANY additional toxics.  There is enough Toxic chemicals in the ecosystem already.  
These people have a right to be heard and protected...

We all agree that the elderly should be protected from muggers on our city streets.
They don't have to specifically ask for protection every time they step out of there homes.  It is understood that the criminals need to be restrained so that the rest of us can function.
It is understood that it requires a dedicated police force and clear guidelines of acceptable behavior...

These Environmental related crimes need to be classified for what they are.  Crimes against our society.
 The legal loopholes need to be closed and this destructive behavior needs to be stopped.

All of these materials will end up deteriorating eventually and will end up in landfills or in the ecosystem.
The EPA needs to be a real and functioning Federal Agency...
There are too many Industrial Criminals lurking just out of Public view, waiting to wreak havoc on our ecosystem and our way of life... (Like any other criminal, their intentions are to accumulate some quick coin and move on.)

Keep Reading! (and speak up).

Report: EPA didn't properly assess coal ash risks

By Dylan Lovan
Associated Press / March 24, 2011
Text size  +

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The federal government promoted some uses of coal ash, including wallboard or filler in road embankments, without properly testing the environmental risks, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general.

The inspector general's report released Wednesday said sites where coal ash was used for earthworks, like road embankments or berms, "may represent a large universe of inappropriate disposal applications with unknown potential for adverse environmental and human health impacts."

The EPA is considering imposing stricter regulations for coal ash, or fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal at power plants. The rule changes were prompted by a 2008 environmental disaster at a Tennessee power plant that released more than 5 million cubic yards of ash into a river and nearby lands.

The agency has said coal ash contains arsenic, selenium, lead and mercury in low concentrations, and those contaminants can pose health risks if they leach into groundwater.

Agency officials relied on state programs to approve beneficial uses of coal ash, the report said, and the federal agency never implemented its own plans set up in 2005 to determine environmentally safe uses. The report recommended the EPA establish new guidelines to determine beneficial uses, and investigate whether action is needed at sites where the substance has been used as structural filler.

Coal ash recyclers and manufacturers that use it have argued that tougher federal regulations would place a stigma on the substance and hinder efforts to reuse some of the 130 million tons produced at U.S. coal-fired power plants each year.

"We have many decades of beneficial use of these products with no damage cases that have resulted from this beneficial use," said Thomas Adams, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association, in Aurora, Colo.

The EPA halted a program last year that promoted beneficial uses of coal ash, and took down a related website. The program, called the Coal Combustion Products Partnership, was started in 2001 with a goal of increasing the recycling of coal ash for use in other applications.

Adams said he was concerned the inspector general's report is a harbinger of EPA plans to impose tougher standards on the substance.

"You can kind of read between the lines that they truly don't support recycling anymore," Adams said.

The EPA's proposed rule would deem coal ash hazardous waste, bringing it under direct federal enforcement. Under a second option, favored by the industry, the ash would be considered non-hazardous and regulation of standards set by the EPA would be left to the states. Several public input hearings held around the country last year on the proposed changes attracted hundreds of citizens, activists and energy and manufacturing workers.

Final Comment:

"You can kind of read between the lines that they (The EPA) truly don't support recycling anymore," Adams said.
He is the representative of "the American Coal Ash Association"...  He is not an environmentalist!  His version of recycling is surreal (at best.) and a public Health Hazard (at worst).

This statement makes it sound like Adams is an environmentalist that is sad because the EPA doesn't support recycling..  :(

What is happening here is that they have kind of changed the standard definition of "recycling" which we are all familiar with (Aluminum cans, plastics, newspapers etc...)  and they now call adding toxic industrial Coal Ash into other products "recycling". 

 This is Pure Marketing and Spin and it should not be tolerated. These lies and Half truths need to be questioned by the General Public and should not be allowed to be propagated as Truth.  

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