Nineteen of the 28 coal ash disposal sites operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority pose high or significant hazards, according to new EPA data released Monday.
A coalition of environmental groups on Monday again called on EPA to regulate what it calls toxic coal ash dumped into 584 ponds and landfill sites in 35 states. The number of such sites listed by EPA has grown by more than 35 percent since the agency's preliminary list came out in June.
TVA's high-risk ash facilities
* Widows Creek gypsum stack near Stevenson, Ala.
* Bull Run fly ash pond near Clinton, Tenn.
* Colbert ash pond 4 near Tuscumbia, Ala.
* Cumberland ash and gypsum ponds in Cumberland City, Tenn.
"There is no lingering doubt, these coal ash dumps are dangerous and must be regulated immediately," said Lisa Evans, an attorney for environmental group Earthjustice, which released the EPA data Monday. "The EPA list provides a clear view of the substantial extent of the threat."
TVA says it is inspecting its coal ash storage facilities and believes they are safe.
"We are doing investigations and analysis of all of our facilities," spokeswoman Barbara Martocci said. "We're confident that our dams are safe, but to ensure that we maintain that safety our coal ash storage areas will all be changed to dry storage."
EPA asked U.S. utilities for information about the disposal of their coal ash in March. More than 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled into the Emory River when an earthen dam ruptured Dec. 22 at TVA's Kingston Fossil Plan. Coal ash covered more than 300 acres of land and river in one of the worst industrial spills in U.S. history. The ash was found to contain such toxic substances as lead, selenium, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury and zinc.
Last month the TVA board approved a plan to phase out wet storage of coal ash at Kingston and five other coal plants over the next eight years. Converting to dry ash storage and closing the current ash ponds is projected to cost from $1.5 billion to $2 billion. That's on top of an estimated $933 million to clean up the Kingston spill.
The federal utility already is working at plants judged to pose a potential high hazard because of environmental damage if a spill or major leak were to occur.
Eric Schaeffer, a former EPA official who heads the Environmental Integrity Project, said the EPA data show that several of the coal ash storage areas are larger than 50 acres.
Mr. Schaeffer said the damage from the Kingston spill and EPA's studies on health problems from other coal pond leaks underscore the need for federal regulation of coal ash.
"Every time a new study is done on what is getting into rivers and streams around these facilities, the case for regulation gets stronger," he said. "I think EPA's announcement on regulating coal ash will come in December, and I think they've got to do something significant in this area."