Commentary: Kentucky needs stronger coal ash standards

Kentucky generates more waste from coal-fired power plants than any other state. With 44 coal ash ponds, we're second only to Indiana on that dubious measure.

Someone living near an unlined coal-ash pond has up to a 1 in 50 chance of developing cancer from arsenic, according to a 2007 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Living near ash ponds increases the risk of damage to liver, kidney and lungs from lead, cadmium, cobalt and other pollutants.

Ash ponds and landfills threaten to overwhelm aquatic ecosystems with toxic levels of other heavy metals, according to the EPA.

Kentucky needs a strong, uniform standard to ensure that the poisons in power-plant waste don't leak or spill into groundwater and rivers.

The EPA must supply that standard because the states are unable or unwilling to do so.

The most dramatic example is the TVA ash pond that failed in 2008, dumping a billion gallons of contaminated waste into the Emory River and onto a nearby neighborhood.

But day in and day out, the invisible, slow leaking of coal-combustion waste into the environment poses a threat.

In Kentucky, the Sierra Club commissioned an examination of groundwater monitoring data for coal-ash disposal facilities. Of the state's 44 ash ponds, the state Division of Waste had monitoring data for only 8, and that data was limited and incomplete. Even from the limited records, the researchers were able to conclude that contaminants had leached into groundwater at all eight sites.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.kentucky.com.