DATE: August 26, 2019
SNIP: More than 100 storage sites for coal-burning power plants’ toxic leftovers lie in areas that federal emergency managers have labeled a high risk for flooding, according to POLITICO’s examination of government and industry data.
That finding comes as scientists and pollution experts warn that coal ash — a multibillion-dollar liability problem for communities across the country — may become an even greater danger because of heavier rains triggered by climate change. Already, federal agencies warn that the government’s flood maps most likely understate the risks of deluges in much of the country, including the Southeast, where at least 42 storage sites in POLITICO’s analysis are located.
The ash, left behind when coal is burned for power generation, contains arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury, boron and other contaminants known to cause cancer, neurological damage or heart ailments. Electric utilities usually store it in massive landfills or unlined ponds that are at a risk of spilling when nearby lakes and rivers flood — as happened in a $1.2 billion disaster that damaged dozens of homes in Tennessee in 2008, as well as two breaches that fouled a river and lake in North Carolina last year after Hurricane Florence.