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Another coal-ash disaster provides further prompt for EPA action

News | February 7, 2014 | By:

80,000 tons pour into Dan River in North Carolina

Earlier this week Duke Energy reported a coal-ash spill at an idled facility—the Dan River Station—in Eden, N.C., resulting in more than 80,000 tons of coal ash released into the adjacent Dan River. The Dan River is a drinking water source for communities in North Carolina and Virginia, so this is a significant issue.

The Dan River facility is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of 49 “high hazard” coal-ash storage sites and stopped addition of coal ash to this pond in 2012. The pond is not lined.

Initial reports are that a 48in.-diameter stormwater pipe, located under the coal-ash storage pond and used to convey collected surface rainwater, structurally failed, thus providing a drainage pathway for the pond’s coal-ash contents to flow into the river.

See news reports on the spill here:
Charlotte Observer: Duke Energy plant reports coal-ash spill
NBC News: 82,000 Tons Of Coal Ash Spill From Plant Into North Carolina River
NPR: More Than 80,000 Tons Of Coal Ash Flow Into N.C. River

Video link: Duke Energy media tour 2-4-14 at Dan River re: coal ash spill

The U.S. EPA is scheduled to promulgate rules by December of this year based on a consent decree that has been announced in D.C. circuit court in the case, Appalachian Voices v. Gina McCarthy (U.S. EPA).
-Coal Age

The specific treatment of legacy/closed and currently existing coal-ash sites is, as yet, unsettled in the proposed rules.

I have been in contact with the staff at Whitmer & Worrall (the government relations firm for the Geosynthetic Materials Association), discussing how GMA can best assist and position our members to supply solutions for these issues.

As we all know, geosynthetic materials can provide critical barrier and reinforcement functions to, not only newly constructed coal-ash storage facilities but they are also key materials in the capping, closure, reinforcement, expansion, and stabilization of existing sites.

This topic will be an important part of the upcoming GMA Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., March 4-5. I hope that you can join us then.

Boyd Ramsey

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