From the failure of the Buffalo Creek dam in West Virginia in 1972, which killed 125 people, to the Harriman, Tennesee, failure in 2008, coal waste has been a largely underregulated problem. The Clean Water Act stopped coal mine tailings from going into rivers, so dams were build of the “gob” instead, as the material fell under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s so-called “Bevill exclusion” from regulation as hazardous waste. Coal ash from power plants is stored in large retention ponds; the 2008 TVA dam rupture spread heavy-metal contamination over a large area.
In 1980, Congress ordered EPA to complete a study of this issue – by 1983 – but the regulatory determination wasn’t turned in until 2000, and no regulations were ever issued. A decision is finally forthcoming, and the public comment period ends on November 19th. The Sierra Club has a web page where you can submit your own public comment, at http://action.sierraclub.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=190063.2&dlv_id=163491.
I urge everyone to review the information and submit a comment. See MY comment below for a link that works.