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EPA holding coal ash hearings

Hearings conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the safety of coal ash have begun this week, with the first hearing having been held on Aug. 30 in Arlington, Va. Another hearing was held in Denver, Colo., on Thursday.
The hearings deal with the regulation of coal ash waste from coal-fired power plants after a new study identified 39 additional coal ash dump sites in 21 states that pollute drinking water with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. The EPA is considering having coal ash considered to be a toxic substance, which would change the way it is handled.
Other scheduled hearings will be held in Dallas, Texas, on Sept. 8; in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 14; in Chicago, Ill., on Sept. 16; in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Sept. 21; and in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 28.
Locally, the Perry County landfill in Uniontown has been taking in coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston fossil plant near Knoxville, Tenn. The liquid runoff from the coal ash in Perry County — called leachate — is being taken to the Demopolis Water Treatment Plant for processing.
The EPA has been criticized for not holding hearings near Knoxville, Perry County or Demopolis. A representative of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told those in attendance at a citizens’ meeting in Roane County, Tenn., on Thursday that there was a chance that the EPA would hold a hearing in Tennessee.
None of the new at-risk sites is in Alabama or Mississippi. Most of the contamination came as a result of unlined or poorly lined dump sites.
Jerry Price, the director of the Demopolis Water Treatment Plant, was unable to speak about the process because of the ongoing litigation between the Demopolis Water and Sewer Board and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and deferred any questions to attorney Woody Dinning Jr.
“They test everything that comes in,” Dinning said. “They do two things: One, they test it, and two, they also put it into a holding facility. They don’t put it straight into the treatment plant. They put it into a holding facility so they can make certain there isn’t anything wrong with it.”
Dinning said the current lawsuit with the water board from ADEM regards permit violations.
“There was a delay in getting the proper license,” Dinning said. “They have those licenses, but then, there were three or four instances where they had voluminous rainfall, causing the system to overload.”
The EPA is welcoming public comment regarding the regulation of coal ash through Nov. 19.
Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-RCRA-2009-0640, by going to the Web site www.regulations.gov and following the online instructions for submitting comments, or sending an e-mail to rcra-docket@epa.gov, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-RCRA-2009-0640.