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Rep. Rahall: coal-ash dams are a ‘ticking time bomb’

News | April 1, 2009 | By:

The chair of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee has called for new legislation, the result of the Tennessee Valley Authority coal-ash dam collapse in Tennessee that sent more than 1 billion gallons of toxic ash pouring over homes, fields, and streams.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.V.) said coal-ash impoundments across the nation are at a crisis point and federal regulations are needed before another failure like the one last December in Tennessee. “This issue cannot be ignored,” Rahall said. “I believe we have a ticking time bomb on our hands.”

Rahall made his remarks during a subcommittee hearing on his legislation to force the Interior Department to regulate coal-ash dams, much as it does coal-slurry impoundments, under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

Under the proposed bill, Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement would write new rules for the design, construction, and inspection standards for coal-ash waste impoundments.

Coal-ash waste is currently not regulated as a hazardous substance by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Proper protection, according to the Sierra Club, would include a geosynthetic clay liner, HDPE membrane, drainage net, leachate collection layer, geotextile filter, and a 4-ft protective layer.

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