Coal Ash: Utility Filings Reveal Dump Conditions, EPA Compliance Plans
November 23, 2016
By Sean Reilly
When Dynegy Inc. released information about a coal ash storage pond at its Joppa, Ill., power plant, the resulting picture was unsettling: The pond had a “high hazard” ranking, meaning people could die in the event of a dike failure.
Papers submitted by the utility showed it also barely cleared a safety assessment and had no liner to protect groundwater.
But from a disclosure standpoint, the filings — required by U.S. EPA to be made public this month — represented a noteworthy development for watchdogs.
“It’s interesting to be able to get a glimpse into what has been a black box,” said Jessica Dexter, a staff attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based advocacy group that favors stricter oversight of coal ash.
Across the country, the newly released records are casting fresh light on the condition of hundreds of coal ash ponds and showing what utilities intend to do with the vast quantities of waste left over from coal-fired electricity generation.
In its disposal rule published last year, EPA gave companies two closure options: leaving the coal ash in place — after “dewatering” the ponds and capping the residue — or excavating the ash and possibly sending it to a landfill.