1300 Fly Coal Ash Dumps around the Country and More

Originally posted 2009-01-08 03:30:12 -1000 - bumped by roxy

In connection to my last diary, I stumbled across this today in the New York Times:

"The coal ash pond that ruptured and sent a billion gallons of toxic sludge across 300 acres of East Tennessee last month was only one of more than 1,300 similar dumps across the United States — most of them unregulated and unmonitored — that contain billions more gallons of fly ash and other byproducts of burning coal.


"Like the one in Tennessee, most of these dumps, which reach up to 1,500 acres, contain heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium, which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a threat to water supplies and human health. Yet they are not subject to any federal regulation, which experts say could have prevented the spill, and there is little monitoring of their effects on the surrounding environment.

"In fact, coal ash is used throughout the country for construction fill, mine reclamation and other “beneficial uses.” In 2007, according to a coal industry estimate, 50 tons of fly ash even went to agricultural uses, like improving soil’s ability to hold water, despite a 1999 E.P.A. warning about high levels of arsenic. The industry has promoted the reuse of coal combustion products because of the growing amount of them being produced each year — 131 million tons in 2007, up from less than 90 million tons in 1990."


This stuff is all over the place and there's no regulation on it.  All of these sites should be considered "superfund sites".  Shall we petition the new EPA Administrator,Lisa Jackson, with our concerns?


Furthermore, I've heard that such sites as Brown's Ferry, that is a nuclear power site has similar holding tanks for their nuclear wastes, and it is also managed by the TVA. 


"(Source: The Decatur Daily)trackingBy The Decatur Daily, Ala.

Jan. 2--Anyone who thinks a worse environmental disaster than the TVA's spill of 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash and muck is hard to imagine, needs to think again.

The Tennessee Valley Authority also runs Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

The Dec. 26 spill unleashed enough sludge into the Emory and Clinch Rivers in Tennessee to fill 1,660 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The coal sludge covered more than 300 acres after a wall breached at a retention site at the TVA plant, about 40 miles east of Knoxville.

Included in the toxic mess: arsenic, lead, barium, chromium, uranium and thorium.

The spill has forced Decatur Utilities, 200 miles downstream, to begin testing drinking water for the chemicals.

So the spill was plenty bad. Had it understood the risk, TVA would no doubt have done just about anything to protect against it.

And that, of course, is the more frightening problem.

Tennessee Valley residents trust the TVA to protect them from nuclear power plants. The destructive potential of Browns Ferry dwarfs that of a Kingston, Tenn., sludge pond.

In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences released a report in which numerous experts expressed serious concerns about the design of Browns Ferry, which has above-ground pools to store spent fuel. The above-ground pools are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and earthquakes, the experts said, and a breach could cause a massive and sudden loss of the water that prevents the stored radioactive material from an uncontrollable chain reaction.

"If water is lost, in almost all conditions, you will then have a fire that releases extremely large amounts of radioactive material," said one author. "For practical purposes, it's a given."

TVA dismisses the report as bad science.

TVA's after-the-fact attention to sludge-pond safety provides some solace. Such post-disaster efforts would be pathetic and inadequate after prevailing winds ushered radioactive particles toward Decatur and Huntsville.

TVA either was oblivious to, or underestimated, the risk posed by its sludge pond in Tennessee. Even as it begins to clean up behind itself, it needs to begin the tough process of restoring public trust.

We trust the authority with our lives. The Tennessee spill gives us reason to wonder."


Now this is not new to me, I used to live in the shadow of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant in Southern Maryland, and we had the very same problem because the method of storing spent fuel is the same at all the nuke plants.  But considering this "infrastructure" problem, the citizens that live around any of these nuke plants are at equal risk.


"Nearly all of the spent fuel created since the dawn of the nuclear age is still sitting in interim storage pools, tanks and dumps close to the reactor site (generally a separate area within the reactor complex.) There is around 160,000 tonnes of spent fuel in interim storage around the world, and every year the nuclear powers add another 14,000 tonnes to the stockpile."


This is a mess too, folks. Anyone who tells you this is safe is also lying.



No votes yet


Yet another 'too big to fail' which of course means it's destined to failure.


Is there any kind of list of these ponds? I'm wondering if it might be possible to map them on something like google maps which allows you to upload a photo to use as a place marker. 'A picture is worth a thousand words' and something like a photographic map could send a really powerful message.

REALLY useful for this -- check this out (excerpting from dKos, where I found the ref):

Want to see something both amazing and terrifying?  Watch the spread of Walmart and remind yourself that this isn't a time lapse analysis of a epidemic... or is it? - Devilstower

Check out the link -- the software used looks like just the thing, if we can find the data...which I think Hummingbird might already have a link to (just saw her piece, so I dunno -- haven't checked the links yet).


I would bet that there is a list of every nuclear plant in the country.  When I typed in "Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant" in Google Earth it showed up... I could actually see the buildings of the plant. 

I did NOT see a big open waste pool, so it may actually be housed in some way.  I need to research this more.  This does not mean these storage facilities are "safe" however.

That was with the article:



Looks like less than 1300 sites though, doesn't it?

located closer to densely populated human habitations...and why only 67 were depicted here.  Are these the only ones with suspected contamination or risk of contamination, or just a small subset for the purpose of illustration (and inadvertently downplaying any risks)?

from other mining operations ... Pegasus comes to mind 

The mine, originally permitted in the late 1970s, was the first large-scale open-pit cyanide heap leach mine in the United States. According to the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement addressing the mine's reclamation and closure, in 1992 the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) reported that cyanide and heavy metals from the mine had contaminated the water.

Tho, I guess the 7,000 (+/-) residents of Blaine County don't quailify as "densely populated". 

Courtesy of the International Nuclear Safety Center:



It's not the same as a google map, but it will do for now.

View Larger Map


Just lovely!  No wonder people in Decatur are concerned! I'm gonna look around and see how many nuclear power plants have storage pools like this.

Update by GH on behalf of Hummingbird -- image is of Brown's Ferry. See subsequent comment below.

discovery of the oil drilling sludge pit -- perhaps do what we can to locate and map other sludge pits -- that could be a very interesting overlay of toxicity.

Might be horrifying.  We may have no where that's safe!

That storage pool is Brown's Ferry. I can't edit my own post for some reason I'm getting a 403.

See above. :)

Hi Folks.


Today was the Hearing on the TVA Spill in front of the Senate Committe on Environment and Public Works.

You can watch the entire Hearing here.


Those testifying were:

Panel 1

Tom Kilgore
President and CEO
Tennessee Valley Authority

Panel 2

Stephen A. Smith DVM
Executive Director
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
William "Howie" Rose
Director of Emergency Management Services
Roane County, Tennessee

Accompanying Stephen were a number of people who lived through the disaster.

Barbara Boxer shone,  she showed she is a no nonsense Senator with a heart of gold who won't put up with lies or sheananigans from people, when she is working FOR the people.  She showed passion and resolve, and it's obvious that she really cares about the outcome of this situation.  I'm so glad she is Chairperson now!  Inhoffe as the cochair just showed how why this important committee has been so ineffectual the past 8 years, while he was the chairman.

I have to compile my notes, but in the meantime you may want to read the testimony that was submitted in writing to the Senate Committee by Stephen Smith. 


I'm reading it tomorrow and will probably have some comments!