EPA Promises Regulations to Prevent Impoundment Failures

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a new plan Monday to prevent events like the December 2008 spill from a Tennessee Valley Authority impoundment that contaminated local rivers and 300 acres of land in Kingston, Tenn. The agency said it has asked for coal ash impoundment information from electrical utilities nationwide and will conduct on-site assessments to determine structural integrity and vulnerabilities, order cleanup and repairs where needed, and develop new safety regulations.

"Environmental disasters like the one last December in Kingston should never happen anywhere in this country," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said. "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." EPA said cleaning up the release from TVA's Kingston facility will cost between $525 million and $825 million, not including long-term cleanup costs.

EPA sent demand letters Monday asking electric utilities that have surface impoundments or similar units to provide information about the structural integrity of their units. The agency estimates as many as 300 such units exist. EPA personnel will visit some of the units to check their impoundments' integrity and will publish the assessment and analysis of all such units located at U.S. electric utilities in a public report.

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