Is it time to haul ash? Maybe kick a little ash, too?

Today the bloviation moves to the U.S. Senate, where it feels right at home.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

Today the bloviation moves to the U.S. Senate, where it feels right at home. It's about the runaway Tennessee coal ash. The committee chairwoman calls for federal regulation. The head of TVA, whose ash got spread around so mercilessly by nature, cannot give a time for the clean-up to be completed. The utility industry's lobbying group, naturally, says there is no need for federal regs. They are unnecessary and would cost too much. More than this clean-up? And the next? And the next? The current estimates of this clean-up run to $100-million already. That's cheaper than planning and prevention?

There could be over 100 other American coal-buring plants with similar coal ash mounds just waiting to be levelled by unforeseen but perhaps inevitable cirucmstance. There are over 1300 currently used and dormant ash mounds in the U.S. Currently there's no federal regulation of the waste from coal-fired powerplants unless there is a mine on the site as well. Said one environmental group testing the downstream water in Tennessee: they found contiamination from arsenic, lead and mercury that came from the coal ash.

I reminded myself that in 1972 a similar runaway ash eruption killed over 100 people in West Virginia. That one happened in Buffalo Creek, WV, killed 125. Six years earlier a similar coal ash disaster in Wales killed 100 school kids.

We've known about this ash problem for decades. Six years ago one reporter in a coal-mining state produced this piece pointing out 100-million tons of coal ash are produced annually in the U.S. The coal interests claim it is not dangerous. Tell that to the survivors of Buffalo Creek or those who lost their homes late last year in Tennessee.

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