SELC Outlines Minimum Coal Waste Safeguards Necessary to Protect Environment, Public Health & Safety
CHAPEL HILL, NC--Following Congressional pledges for EPA
regulation of coal waste after the catastrophic waste spill in
Tennessee and a second spill in Alabama, the Southern
Environmental Law Center today outlined the minimum safeguards
necessary to protect the environment and public health and
safety from coal waste.
"Congressional leadership in setting national safeguards is
welcome given EPA's failure to regulate coal waste and the
resulting patchwork of inadequate state regulations," said
Chandra Taylor, staff attorney, the Southern Environmental Law
Center. "In some states--like North Carolina for example--
household garbage is more regulated than the type of toxic-laden
coal waste that spilled in Tennessee."
Often mixed with water and disposed of in surface ponds or
landfills, coal combustion waste contains a variety of toxic
chemicals and metals including arsenic, lead, and cadmium. An
EPA report found that unlined coal combustion waste ponds pose a
cancer risk 900 times above what the government considers
"To be true safeguards for the public and environment, national
regulations must address the siting and structure of waste
storage, monitoring, corrective action requirements, and
long-term financial assurance for any clean-up," added Taylor.
"Ultimately, the type of wet storage that failed at the TVA
Kingston facility should be phased out in favor of dry,
composite-lined and monitored storage located outside of
Once enforceable regulations are established by EPA, states must
follow with regulations at least as stringent, if not more
stringent than the federal regulations. The Southern
Environmental Law Center advocates that the EPA set the
following minimum safeguards for coal combustion waste sites to
eliminate unreasonable risks to human health and the
* Siting Restrictions-Ban disposal beneath the seasonal high
groundwater table (the natural level at which water stands in a
shallow well), prohibit placement of disposal units in
floodplains, wetlands, fault areas, seismic impact zones,
unstable areas and karst terrain.
* Composite Liners--Protect groundwater through required use of
impermeable dual liner systems with fluid landfill waste
collection and removal.
* Covers--Require use of covers on waste storage facilities to
minimize airborne pollution from the waste, leaching and surface
* Comprehensive Monitoring--Mandate consistent groundwater
monitoring for all new and existing disposal units with at least
one upgradient well and at least three downgradient wells.
Monitoring should include comprehensive testing for common
constituents of coal combustion waste.
* Corrective Action Requirements--Mandate standards for
corrective action that include selection of a remedy that is
only deemed complete when water quality standards have been
restored and maintained for at least a 3-year period.
* Long-term Financial Assurance--Ensure that the owner or
operator of a disposal unit adequately plans for the future
costs of closure, post-closure care and corrective action for
known releases to clean up any pollution that results from
placement of coal combustion waste in the environment.
A full copy of SELC's "Blueprint to Safeguard the Environment,
Public Health & Safety from Coal Waste" is available online at
Founded in 1986, SELC is the only non-profit regional
organization dedicated to protecting the native forests,
wetlands, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and rural
landscapes in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee and Virginia. SELC works in partnership with more than
100 diverse groups on legal advocacy, policy reform and public
education to achieve lasting environmental protections.