Panel calls for emergency response plans for coal ash spills

Nearly six months after a massive wall of fly ash and sludge breached a storage pond at the TVA plant in Kingston, Tenn., the cost of cleanup could reach as much as $1 billion.

The Dec. 22 spill covered 300 acres and damaged about two dozen homes.

The Kingston spill will have far-reaching consequences for coal combustion waste, said speakers at the annual World of Coal Ash conference in Lexington on Tuesday.

Most of all, "we have to look at what needs to be done in case of such emergencies," said Michael Scott, the program manager at Kingston, citing the importance of emergency plans.

But the Kingston spill — and a similar coal slurry pond spill in Martin County in 2000 — hasn't been enough to persuade Kentucky lawmakers to pass a law requiring coal companies to develop plans in case of such emergencies.

The latest bill for such a requirement was tabled at the most recent legislative session after language was added to take away state oversight of the plans, said Tom Fitzgerald, head of the Kentucky Resources Council, who spoke at the conference. No one was hurt in Tennessee or Martin County. But people still point to the 1972 collapse of a coal-waste dam in Buffalo Creek, W.Va., which killed 125 people and injured more than 1,000.

"I would hope for the coal companies' sake that we don't have a high hazard impoundment break between now and when we can put the regulations in place," Fitzgerald said.


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