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New Interactive Web Tool Gives Citizens Detailed Info About Alabama’s Toxic Coal Ash

by Katie Shaddix last modified December 11, 2012 11:46 AM



The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
DECEMBER 11, 2012

Contacts:
Ulla Reeves, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 828-254-6776 x2
Frank Holleman, Southern Environmental Law Center, 919-967-1450
Cindy Lowry, Alabama Rivers Alliance, 205-322-6395 ext. 106
Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, 205-458-0095

 

New Interactive Web Tool Gives Citizens Detailed Info About Alabama’s Toxic Coal Ash

Project highlights ongoing problems four years after Kingston, TN disaster

Atlanta, Ga. – Today Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Appalachian Voices, Southern Environmental Law Center, and NC Conservation Network launched the first-ever comprehensive online tool that allows Alabamians to find specific information about coal ash impoundments near them. The site, www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org, includes information on the health threats associated with this toxic waste from coal-fired power plants, safety ratings of the coal ash impoundments, and how citizens can advocate for strong federal safeguards. 

Alabama is one of nine states covered by the site, which is being launched four years after a massive coal ash dam in Kingston, Tenn. catastrophically failed, releasing a billion-gallon flood of coal ash that poisoned some 300 acres, destroyed two dozen homes and filled the Emory River with toxic sludge. The coalition developed the websiteto call greater attention to the lurking dangers of coal ash in the South, where nearly 450 impoundments hold roughly 118 billion gallons of the toxic waste.

“Alabama is home to 44 coal ash impoundments that are threatening our waterways,” stated Ulla Reeves regional program director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Of the plants that had dams rated in the Southeast, nearly one-third are “high hazard,” meaning that a dam failure like Kingston would likely cause fatalities. In Alabama, four of the state’s nine coal plants have yet to be inspected for coal ash dam safety and three of the five plants that have been inspected are rated high or significant hazard.” 

The site features an interactive map and database of 100 coal-fired power plants in the Southeast, color-coded by the amount of damage each would inflict if the coal ash dams were to break, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A brief glance at the map shows just how much more work needs to be done to assess these dangers – almost half of the plants in the Southeast have inadequate data for EPA to properly assess the coal ash dams on site. Moreover, many of the plants lack adequate water monitoring data to show whether or not there are contamination problems at these sites.

"Alabama received a rude awakening when the toxic coal ash from the spill in Tennessee ended up being dumped in a regular household landfill in Uniontown, one of Alabama's poorest and most vulnerable communities,” stated Cindy Lowry, executive director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. “It’s been over four years since EPA promised to properly regulate coal ash, but it remains an unregulated toxic waste largely stored in unlined holding lagoons, much to the detriment of Alabama’s drinking and recreational waters. It is important that we have tools like this website to help us continue to educate citizens and decision-makers on the hazards of coal ash and advocate for its proper regulation."  

“According to a recent report from the Environmental Integrity Project, Alabama’s coal ash impoundments receive the most toxic metals of any in the nation and therefore pose a serious threat to Alabama’s waterways and communities,” stated Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “This website puts a spotlight on the hidden dangers of numerous impoundments storing coal ash waste and helps people understand how pollution from this waste poisons the water they use for drinking, swimming, fishing, and recreation.” 

The new website features more than a dozen informational pages detailing the health and environmental hazards of coal ash as well as the current legislative and regulatory environment, active legal battles, links to additional articles, news and more. Every coal-fired power plant in the Southeast has a site-specific page, accessible from the interactive map. One click takes you deeper into the data about each plant to find out if there are any known contamination problems at the coal ash impoundment(s) on site, local action groups you can contact about that plant, as well as other local, state, and regional/federal actions citizens can take.You can view a demonstration video here.




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