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EPA releases coal ash impoundment action plan.

The Environmental Protection Agency released action plans developed by 20 electric utility facilities with 70 coal ash impoundments, describing the measures the facilities are taking to make their impoundments safer.

The action plans are a response to EPA's final assessment reports the structural integrity of these impoundments that the agency made public in May 2010, agency spokesman Larry Jackson reported.

Coal ash was brought to national attention in 2008 when an impoundment holding disposed coal ash waste generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority failed, creating a massive spill in Kingston, Tenn., that released more than five million cubic-yards of coal ash to the surrounding area.

Soon after the incident, EPA began overseeing the cleanup, as well as investigating the structural integrity of impoundments where coal ash waste is stored.

Since May 2009, EPA has conducted on-site structural integrity assessments of coal ash impoundments and ponds at electric utilities.

EPA provides copies of the structural integrity assessment reports to each facility and requests the facilities implement the reports' recommendations and provide their plans for taking action.

The newly released action plans address recommendations from assessments of 70 impoundments at 20 facilities.

Many of the facilities already have begun implementing EPA's recommendations, Jackson said.

In 2010, EPA completed comprehensive assessments for 60 impoundments that were considered to have a high risk of causing harm if the impoundment were to fail.

In addition to the action plans, EPA released assessment reports on the structural integrity of an additional 38 coal ash impoundments at 17 facilities across the country. Of these units, nine received a "poor" rating and none of the units received an "unsatisfactory" rating, the lowest possible EPA rating.

The poor ratings were given because the units lacked some of the necessary engineering documentation required in the assessments, and not because the units are unsafe, EPA reported.

There are now 240 facilities with 676 surface impoundments in EPA's database. A list and additional information on the impoundments is available at al/fossil/surveys/index.htm#databaseresults.

Contact: Larry Jackson, (202) 564-0236.

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Publication:Solid Waste Report
Date:May 30, 2011
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