Tag Archive for 'arsenic'

Huge Leak of Coal Ash Slows at North Carolina Power Plant

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“From 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal-ash slurry flowed into the Dan after the collapse of a corrugated metal drainpipe only a few feet beneath a 27-acre pond, known as an impoundment. Duke Energy, the utility that owns the impoundment and the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, N.C., which closed in 2012, says that 27 million gallons of contaminated water also leaked into the river. Coal ash, a murky gray sludge that is the residue from burning powdered coal to generate electricity, contains high levels of toxic elements, including lead, mercury, selenium and arsenic.

The state said it began testing the Dan’s waters on Tuesday for the presence of 28 toxic metals. A spokesman for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Jamie Kritzer, said Thursday that the first results would be available by Friday.

The department said that five downstream communities that take drinking water from the river were monitoring and filtering the water and had deemed it safe.”

Read more: New York Times


Predicting the World’s Next Water Pollution Disaster

A worker samples water from a well at a coal bed methane drill site. Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“Only a tiny fraction of the ore miners exhume contains gold, copper, lead, zinc, or the other metals they’re after. The rest is waste, or tailings, full of large quantities of metals and minerals ranging from benign to very toxic. These fine-grained wastes are often held in tailings ponds that can cover many square miles.

Unfortunately the dams holding tailing ponds aren’t always examples of high-level engineering and, in some countries, may be made by simply bulldozing the tailings themselves into an embankment, explains geologist Johnnie Moore, of the University of Montana.

“There is the potential for huge amounts of [toxic waste] to move into a river system whenever any of those things break, and in fact it does happen,” he said.

Last summer a discharge of acidic waste escaped from a Fujan province copper plant run by China’s largest gold producer, Zijin Mining Group Co. The accident poisoned enough Ting River fish to feed 70,000 people for a year and also contaminated their water supply, according to reports from the Reuters news agency. Two years earlier, runoff from a gold mine near Dadong contaminated the water supply for more than 200,000 people. Over the years, similar disasters have occurred in Spain, Peru, the Philippines, and elsewhere, and there are plenty of other sites in China that scientists have their eye on.

Other toxic processes that use mercury and cyanide to extract valuable minerals from rock create the potential for environmental disaster as well.”

Read more: National Geographic

Why Is the EPA Sitting on Its Ash?

Photo retrieved from: www.motherjones.com

“It has been two years since an earthen dike holding back 1.1 billion gallons of coal slurry ruptured, unleashing a tsunami of dark gray sludge from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee. The wave destroyed homes, surged into the yards of neighbors, and caused the nearby ponds and streams to overflow. More than 300 acres of land were covered in the stuff, and in the weeks after, the ash would travel as far as 30 miles downstream on the nearby Emory River. Locals refer to the “ash bergs” up to 40 feet tall that landed in their yards and floated down the river.

The environmental disaster for the first time raised the question of why coal-burning power plants are allowed to dump the fly ash waste—the fine, dust-like particles emitted when coal is burned to create power—into vast open pits. The ash, doused with water and left in these containment ponds for years, contains toxic elements like arsenic, mercury, and lead. But for decades, the disposal of the waste was left unregulated. Power plants produce more than 130 million tons of the ash each year, and while 43 percent of it gets recycled into products like cement and wallboard, much of the rest remains on site at coal-fired power plants around the country.”

Read more: Mother Jones