Alabama county takes on tons of toxic waste (coal ash)

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From the Birmingham Weekly>

Into a place where the Cahaba, one of America’s last free-running wild rivers, flows, Perry County in Alabama is welcoming, and the Environmental Protection Agency is permitting, almost four million tons of toxic waste (coal or fly ash), shipped in from a TVA plant 300 miles away.

When a 50-foot high pile of coal ash, characterized as an “ash pond,” gave way in Tennessee’s Coal River Valley December 22, 2008, an estimated 500 million gallons of toxic sludge tumbled like a poisonous avalanche into the ecosystem around Kingston, AL. Besides damaging homes in the adjacent town of Harriman, the muckslide despoiled about 300 acres and emptied residue into the Tennessee River, affecting water supplies in Alabama and Kentucky as well. Cleaning up the mess, which the EPA called “one of the largest and most serious environmental releases in our history” will cost over a billion dollars.

Coal ash”:, the stuff left over after coal has been burned, is a nasty brew of goo. Besides containing potentially harmful metals such as chromium, mercury and selenium, as well as an unhealthy dose of arsenic, power plant coal ash, according to Scientific American, has so much concentrated uranium and thorium that it “delivers more radiation than nuclear waste shielded via water or dry cask storage.”

However, the EPA does not consider coal ash hazardous material.

For that, we can thank former Alabama Congressman Tom Bevill, a tireless toady for the state’s mining interests who had the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act amended in 1980 to prevent the EPA from characterizing coal ash as hazardous. Despite its own research indicating that people exposed to coal ash face a greater-than average cancer risk, the EPA has still taken no action to reclassify. The Center for Public Integrity suggests that the agency has kowtowed to utility industry interests through pressure from the Office of Management and Budget.