In response to December’s giant coal ash spill in Kingston, Tenn., the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced that it is beginning the process of regulating the waste ponds around the country.
The December spill spurred increased attention to coal-waste issues around the country. The 1.1 billion gallons of slurry flooded more than 300 acres of land and damaged homes in the area surrounding the Tennessee Valley Authority pond, and clean-up could cost up to $825 million.
Coal-ash impoundments like the Kingston pond are not currently subject to federal regulation, and oversight rules vary by state. The agency’s regulatory plan begins by gathering information on the structural integrity of coal-ash impoundments from electrical utilities, and conducting on-site assessments of the impoundments. These are intended to locate the impoundments that require cleanup and repairs, and the information requests are “legally enforceable and must be responded to fully,” according to the EPA. Administrator Lisa Jackson issued a letter to containment facilities and the corporations responsible for them directing them to provide the agency with specific information about the structure and safety of impoundments.
“The agency will require appropriate remedial action at any facility that is found to pose a risk for potential failure,” according to the agency’s press release on the plan. After the initial assessments, the EPA said it intends to develop new regulations for future safety of the estimated 300 impoundments around the country.
“Environmental disasters like the one last December in Kingston should never happen anywhere in this country,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in a statement. “That is why we are announcing several actions to help us properly protect the families who live near these facilities and the places where they live, work, play and learn.”