Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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EPA: No More Shades of Gray for Coal Ash in FL

TALLAHASSEE, FL - The disposal of coal ash in Florida will become a black-and-white issue starting in December.

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to finalize the first-ever federal regulations for disposal of waste generated by coal-fired power plants - waste that contains toxins.

Jared Saylor, campaign director for Earthjustice, said the regulations will help create safer practices for the eight coal-fired power plants in the state.

Florida Coal Ash Fact Sheet

"I can't think of a state that is more dependent on clean water than Florida is, whether it's for drinking or whether it's for recreation," he said. "Florida is the Sunshine State. It's an area that's really built around its tourism, and that tourism is dependent on clean water."

The EPA's plans came after Earthjustice and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit demanding such regulations. Florida's plants generate 6.1 million tons of coal ash every year. The state ranks seventh in the nation for coal ash generation.

Coal ash ponds contain the byproduct of coal-fired power generation, and at this point are not required to be lined. Saylor said toxins such as mercury and lead have been found in the groundwater supply around the ponds - and it's time something is done.

"This is toxic waste that's essentially dumped into unlined and unmonitored pits and landfills, right next to these power plants," he said. "Our household garbage is better regulated than coal ash that's coming out of these facilities."

Currently, environmentalists and state regulators in North Carolina are investigating a coal ash spill into the Dan River, near the Virginia border. In 2008, a dike ruptured at a coal-ash pond in Kingston, Tenn., and released more than 1 billion gallons of coal ash. After the disaster, EPA administrators said they would take regulatory action.

Photos/graphics and links added by the Observer

Photo: southeastcoalash.org

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