For information on the coal industry's backroom lobbying to prevent the classification of coal ash as "hazardous," check out the recent DeSmogBlog/PolluterWatch report, Coal Fired Utilities to American Public: Kiss My Ash [pdf]. Also refer to the new Greenpeace map of high-hazard coal ash locations.
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to decide whether or not to federally regulate coal ash, wrapping up the public comment period that began in late June. Coal ash, a residual product from burning coal, contains known neurotoxins and carcinogens, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. The substance is also notably radioactive.
Coal ash is less regulated than household garbage, and there's enough of the sludge to flow through Niagara Falls for over three days straight.
While Little Blue Run pond may give the impression of a quaint place to go for a swim, it is anything but. Owned by FirstEnergy, Little Blue Run is a coal ash impoundment right near the converging border of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio (check this map). The waste stored in Little Blue Run is produced seven miles away at FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield Power Station.
If the dam holding the pond's material were to break, 50,000 people in Ohio would be in immediate danger of a toxic flood. As if this dramatic threat is not stressful enough, people in the area also live with the lingering concerns of water contamination and ailments from dry ash circulated by the wind.
Lisa Jackson and the EPA seem to have no doubt about the dangers of coal ash. The agency found there is at least a 1 in 50 chance of developing cancer when living close enough to ash ponds, and recognizes that ponds like Little Blue Run have arsenic levels 900 times that of what is considered "safe".
It is time for the EPA to see its job through, ending the needless poisoning of Americans unfortunate enough to live too close to the toxic messes Big Coal leaves behind.
Photo Credit: Duke University