Asheville Plant 1982 Pond
- Owner: Progress Energy Carolinas
- Parent company: Progress Energy
- Associated coal plant: Asheville Plant
- Location: Arden, NC
- GPS coordinates: 35.4700, -82.5500
- Hazard potential: High
- Year commissioned: 1982
- Year(s) expanded: 2006
- Material(s) stored: Fly ash, Bottom ash, Boiler slag
- Professional Engineer (PE) designed?: Yes
- PE constructed?: Yes
- PE monitored?: No
- Significant deficiencies identified: None
- Corrective measures: None
- Surface area (acres): Confidential
- Storage capacity (acre feet): Confidential
- Unit Height (feet): Confidential
- Historical releases: None
- Additional notes:
Associated coal waste site
On January 8, 2013, conservation groups Cape Fear River Watch, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Western North Carolina Alliance filed a lawsuit against the state Environmental Management Commission, Duke Energy, and Progress Energy seeking the cleanup or shut-down of 14 coal ash pits. The suit challenges a ruling in December 2012 by the Environmental Management Commission, which voted 9-2 that Duke and Progress ash pits were subject to less stringent regulations and were therefore not out of compliance with groundwater contamination standards. The groups argue that monitoring by Progress Energy shows persistent groundwater contamination, including arsenic levels above state standards, at the company’s Asheville Plant and Sutton Steam Plant. Sampling at 12 other coal-fired plants, the litigants contend, also show contamination.
Coal waste in the United States
A January 2009 study by The New York Times following the enormous TVA coal ash spill found that there are more than 1,300 surface impoundments across the U.S. containing coal waste, with some sites as large as 1,500 acres. Also in January 2009, an Associated Press study found that 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to the one that ruptured at Kingston Fossil Plant. The states with the most storage in coal ash in ponds are Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. The AP's analysis found that in 2005, 721 power plants generating at least 100 MW of electricity produced 95.8 million tons of coal ash, about 20 percent of which - or almost 20 million tons - ended up in surface ponds. The rest of the ash winds up in landfills or is sold for other uses. In June 2009, EPA released its list of 44 "high hazard potential" coal waste sites, which included 12 sites in North Carolina, 9 in Arizona, 6 in Kentucky, 6 in Ohio, and 4 in West Virginia. The full list is available here.
Asheville ranked 69th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste
In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill. The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.
Asheville Plant ranked number 69 on the list, with 411,793 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.
"High Hazard" Surface Impoundments
Two of Asheville Plant's coal ash surface impoundments are on EPA's official June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event.
In March 2010, pilot J. Henry Fair flew over the Asheville Plant and made the following observations:
|“||The Asheville coal plant is right next to the airport, which fortunately was not too busy. The lighting was pretty flat, with a good bit of snow on the ground. Amazingly, there were nice houses right under the ash ponds. The volume of crud in these things is staggering. If that earthen dyke bursts (there was nice steam coming off the water, which will someday perfectly illustrate a story on thermal pollution from power plants), that entire neighborhood will literally be buried by this poison-laden slurry.||”|
Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Asheville Plant waste site
The study "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash," released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011, reported that the level of hexavalent chromium, a highly potent cancer-causing chemical, at a coal ash site associated with the Asheville Plant was 83 parts per billion. That level is 4,150 times as high as California's drinking water goal, and 66% above North Carolina's groundwater standard. In all, the study cited 29 sites in 17 states where hexavalent chromium contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash as well as from studies by EarthJustice, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club. It included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In North Carolina, the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, the Asheville Plant in Arden and the Cape Fear Steam Plant in Montcure all were reported as having high levels of hexavalent chromium.
A press release about the report read:
- Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.
According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.
- Center for Public Integrity
- Energy Justice Network
- Environmental Integrity Project
- Institute for Southern Studies
- Organic Consumers Association
- Sludge Safety Project
- Sierra Club
- Southern Environmental Law Center
- Coal Ash Survey Results, Environmental Protection Agency, accessed December 2009.
- Anne Blythe, "Environmental groups seek clean up of 14 coal ash pits," News Observer, Jan. 8, 2013.
- Shaila Dewan, "Hundreds of Coal Ash Dumps Lack Regulation," New York Times, January 7, 2009.
- Dina Cappiello, "Toxic Coal Ash Piling up in Ponds in 32 States," Associated Press, January 9, 2009.
- Shaila Dewan, "E.P.A. Lists ‘High Hazard’ Coal Ash Dumps," New York Times, June 30, 2009.
- Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
- TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
- Coal waste
- "North Carolina Coal Ash," OnEarth, March 12, 2010
- "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
- "Damage Case Report for Coal Compustion Wastes," August 2008
- U.S. EPA Proposed Coal Ash Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35128
- EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," August 2010
- EarthJustice and Environmental Integrity Project, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites," May 2010
- "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Coal Ash Safety Issues, Donald Saxman, altenergymag.com (undated)
- "Coal Ash: 130 Million Tons of Waste," 60 Minutes, October 4, 2009.
- Charles Duhigg, "Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, At a Cost in Suffering,", New York Times, September 12, 2009.
- Kirstin Lombardi, "Coal ash: The hidden story," Center for Public Integrity, February 19, 2009.
- "Coal Ash: A National Problem Needs a National Solution," Earth Justice fact sheet, January 2009.
- "Toxic Ash: A License to Pollute," Post and Courier, October 26-29, 2008.
- "Coal Combustion Waste," As You May or May Not Know..., March 27, 2008.
- House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources: Oversight Hearing, "How Should the Federal Government Address the Health and Environmental Risks of Coal Combustion Waste?,", June 10, 2007.
- Martha Keating, "Cradle to Grave: The Environmental Impacts from Coal," Clean Air Task Force, June 2001.
- Martha Keating, Ellen Baum and Eric Round, "Laid to Waste: The Dirty Secret of Combustion Waste from America's Power Plants," Citizens Coal Council, Hoosier Environmental Council, Clean Air Task Force, March 2000.