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Thread: Coal ash spills too dangerous to reveal to public, says DHS

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    Elite Member Cali's Avatar
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    Default Coal ash spills too dangerous to reveal to public, says DHS

    Coal Ash Spills Too Dangerous to Reveal to Public


    Just how bad has the coal ash situation gotten in the United States? So bad that the Department of Homeland Security has told Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that her committee can't publicly disclose the location of coal ash dumps across the country.

    The pollution is so toxic, so dangerous, that an enemy of the United States -- or a storm or some other disrupting event -- could easily cause them to spill out and lay waste to any area nearby.

    There are 44 sites deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency to be high hazard, but Boxer said she isn't allowed to talk about them other than to senators in the states effected. "There is a huge muzzle on me and my staff," she said.

    "Homeland Security and the Army Corps [of Engineers] have decided in the interests of national security they can't make these sites known," she said.

    There are several hundred coal ash piles across the nation, she said, all of them unregulated.

    "If these coal ash piles were to fail they'd pose a threat to the people nearby," she said. While keeping it from the public, DHS is alerting first responders as to the location of the piles.

    "I believe it is essential to let people know," said Boxer, arguing that if people knew what was in their backyard they'd press public officials to clean it up and protect the area. "I think secrecy might lead to inaction...I am pressing on this."

    Boxer is sending a letter, she told reporters Friday, to DHS and the Army Corps, pressing for public release of the information and asking for a more thorough explanation and a comparison of this policy of secrecy to policies around Superfund-listed sites and nuclear sites.

    "We don't need legislation if they do their job," she said.

    A recent coal ash spill in Tennessee devastated the surrounding area, was 100 times worse than the Exxon-Valdez spill, said Boxer, and will cost a billion dollars to clean up.

    That one's not secret.
    Coal Ash Spills Too Dangerous To Reveal To Public, Says DHS
    I did some digging and found the report issued by 2 non-profit environmental organizations and it is pretty alarming:

    Obama Administration Releases EPA Data hidden by Bush Administration showing significantly higher cancer risks for those living near a coal ash dump site


    Underlying 2002 EPA Risk Screening Report Only Released in 2009 After Obama Administration Took Power; Five or More High-Risk Sites Found in 21 States: NC, IN, IL, OH, GA, KY, TN, TX, AL, IA, MI, SC, WV, WI, WY, KS, LA, MD, ND, OK and PA.

    WASHINGTON, D.C.///May 7, 2009///The Bush Administration dragged its feet for more than five years from 2002-2007 on what it now turns out was only the partial release of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data showing a disturbingly high cancer risk for up to one out of every 50 Americans living near wet ponds used to dispose of ash and scrubber sludge from coal-fired power plants across the United States, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice. Each year, coal-fired power plants dispose of nearly 100 million tons of toxic fly ash, bottom ash, and scrubber sludge in more than 200 landfills and wet ponds, such as the one that burst in Kingston, TN in December 2008.

    During the Bush Administration, the EPA made a concerted effort to delay the release of the information about cancer, non-cancer and general environmental risks. Partial disclosure of the coal ash dump site risks was delayed from 2002-2007, with the full picture not coming to light until an underlying 2002 EPA risk screening report was finally made public on March 4, 2009 — seven years after its internal EPA publication. (The 2002 risk screening report pointed to risks associated with the toxic metal selenium, which were omitted from the draft EPA risk assessment issued in 2007.) The 2007 EPA risk assessment came only after substantial delays and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) pressure, which had resulted in the blacking out of key sections of earlier EPA documents. (See ―Timeline‖ section of this news release.)

    What was the Bush Administration EPA hiding? The new analysis from EIP and Earthjustice zeroes in on 100 landfills and 110 surface impoundments examined by the EPA that lack effective synthetic liners to prevent leaks, since the EPA found unlined and clay-lined waste units present far greater risks to both human health and ecosystems.

    According to the EIP/Earthjustice analysis of the EPA data, there are high-risk coal ash dump sites in at least three dozen states, with 21 states playing home to five or more such sites: North Carolina (17); Indiana (15); Illinois (14); Ohio (12); Georgia (11); Kentucky (11); Tennessee (11); Texas (10); Alabama (9); Iowa (7); Michigan (7); South Carolina (7); West Virginia (7); Wisconsin (7); Wyoming (6); Kansas (5); Louisiana (5); Maryland (5); North Dakota (5); Oklahoma (5); and Pennsylvania (5). A complete list of these unlined or clay-lined waste disposal units can be found at Environmental Integrity Project.

    Titled “Coming Clean: What EPA Knows About the Dangers of Coal Ash,” the Environmental Integrity Project/Earthjustice report notes: “Can living next to one of these dumpsites increase your risk of getting cancer or other diseases? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thinks so, especially if you live near one of those wet ash ponds, or surface impoundments, that dot the landscape near large coal plants, the pond has no protective liner, and you get your drinking water from a well … (N)earby residents have as much as a 1 in 50 chance of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated by arsenic, one of the most common, and most dangerous, pollutants from coal ash. And that’s not all. That same risk assessment says that living near ash ponds increases the risk of damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and other organs as a result of being exposed to toxic metals like cadmium, cobalt, lead, and other pollutants at concentrations far above levels that are considered safe. In addition, the danger to wildlife and ecosystems is simply off the charts, with one contaminant—boron—expected to leach into the environment at levels two thousand times thresholds generally considered to be safe.”

    Eric Schaeffer, director, Environmental Integrity Project, said: “We now have the full picture about coal dump sites across America and it is not pretty. The EPA’s data shows that the disposal of coal ash, especially in unlined ponds, results in alarmingly high risks of cancer and diseases of the heart, lung, liver, stomach and other organs and can seriously harm aquatic ecosystems and wildlife near disposal sites. These risks are driven by exposure to toxic metals that leach from groundwater into drinking water, surface waters and sediment. Power industry lobbyists would rather keep the public in the dark about the risk from coal ash disposal; it’s up to EPA to turn the lights on and regulate these hazards. Even as recently as December 2008, after the 1 billion gallon spill from its Kingston Power Plant, the Tennessee Valley Authority claimed that the coal ash posed little risk to human health or the environment. The EPA data we are releasing today brings the real threats to light.”

    Lisa Evans, attorney, Earthjustice, said: “Given what the Agency already knows, coal ash ponds must be phased out—and cleaned out—within five years, to keep their toxic cargo from building up and jeopardizing the health of nearby residents, poisoning wildlife, and contaminating rivers and streams. So called “dry landfills”—especially those that are unlined—also pose unacceptable risks, and ought to be regulated as hazardous waste disposal sites. The EPA’s risk assessment clearly establishes that unlined coal ash disposal sites—wet and dry—are hazardous to human health and the environment. We hope the new leadership at the EPA will act on that knowledge before further serious damage occurs to our health and environment.”

    KEY FINDINGS
    The problem may be twice as big as the data indicate. The number of unlined and clay-lined ash ponds and landfills currently in operation in the United States is likely to be more than double the number of units represented in the EPA survey data. In fact, industry has reported at least 427 waste ponds in response to EPA‘s March 2009 information request letter, exceeding by 40 percent EPA‘s estimate of the number of operating waste ponds, EPA does not know how many of these ponds are unlined, but, based on 1995 statistics, approximately three-quarters of these ponds lack any liners.

    The coal ash threat could linger for 100 years. Because some of the EPA data go back to the mid-1990s, it is possible that some of the listed dump sites are no longer in use. The EPA warns, however, that peak pollution from ash ponds can occur long after the waste is placed and is likely to result in peak exposures approximately 78 to 105 years after the ponds first began operation—thus ―retired sites still pose very significant threats.

    Higher cancer risk for up to 1 in 50 nearby residents.
    The EPA estimates that up to 1 in 50 nearby residents could get cancer from exposure to arsenic leaking into drinking water wells from unlined waste ponds that mix ash with coal refuse. Arsenic has been found to cause multiple forms of cancer, including cancer of the liver, kidney, lung, and bladder, and an increased incidence of skin cancer in populations consuming drinking water high in inorganic arsenic. Threats are also posed by unacceptable high levels of other metals, including boron, selenium and lead.

    Higher non cancer risks seen from lead and other sources. The EPA also predicts that these unlined ash ponds can increase the risk of other ―non cancer‖ health effects, such as damage to vital organs like the liver and kidneys and, in the case of lead, damage to the central nervous system. The agency has set maximum contaminant levels (―MCLs‖) under the Safe Drinking Water Act to limit exposure to hazardous pollutants. But according to the EPA, unlined waste ponds that mix ash and
    coal refuse will result in exposures up to nine times the federal standard for lead, a deadly neurotoxin that can damage the central nervous system, especially in young children.

    If you want to read more, this is all from a PDF from here: http://www.environmentalintegrity.or...%20Release.pdf. Or I can post the rest of it if you're interested. This is frickin' scary and disgusting.

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    Elite Member L1049's Avatar
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    I still don't get why nuclear power/nuclear waste is so 'demonized.'
    I'd take nuclear waste (which can be recycled) from a nuclear power plant, over this coal ash shit any day.

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    Cause "nukular" waste could make you grow a second head! This stuff will just give you cancer and kill you, no biggie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beeyotch View Post
    Cause "nukular" waste could make you grow a second head! This stuff will just give you cancer and kill you, no biggie.
    I'd rather the second head...

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    Quote Originally Posted by L1049 View Post
    I still don't get why nuclear power/nuclear waste is so 'demonized.'
    I'd take nuclear waste (which can be recycled) from a nuclear power plant, over this coal ash shit any day.
    I completely agree with you. Honestly, there is NO such thing as 'clean coal' and I didn't realize it until today when I began researching it.

    If you (generally speaking, not just you L1049) have any doubts, please read GQ's latest, incredible article on this (and don't be intimidated by the 17 pg thing- its for the sake of read-and-click'ers on the internet.)

    This is an INCREDIBLE article and I really advise everyone to read this, as it affects everyone who lives in : NC, IN, IL, OH, GA, KY, TN, TX, AL, IA, MI, SC, WV, WI, WY, KS, LA, MD, ND, OK and PA.

    BLACK TIDE: GQ Features on men.style.com

    I'm happy to post the entire article if anyone is interested- please let me know if you're tired of clicking the 'next' page button and I'll post it.

    The fact is that if you burn coal, you are then left with this coal sludge that is extremely toxic, even deadly, and we've got to do something with it. And as of right now, that coal sludge has zero regulation as to its storage, and it is being placed in random ponds around the US, and it contains lethal amounts of horrific chemicals that are being stored in places that have no regulation and could topple onto your town at a moment's notice.
    Just like happened in TN.

    I'm not even a rabid environmentalist and this still pisses me off. This coal sludge finds it way into our drinking water, food sources and beyond. It is a BIG problem.

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