Taking A Closer Look At State's Coal Ash Ponds - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Taking A Closer Look At State's Coal Ash Ponds

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NewsChannel 5 Investigates has been taking a closer look at coal ash ponds in Tennessee and across the nation.

Investigative reporter Ben Hall discovered a surprising number of plants dispose of toxic coal waste the same way Kingston did. T

here are more than 1,000 sites like Kingston across the country. 

But there is no federal regulation about how to dispose of coal ash.

"It's something of a political stalemate, and I think that it indicates the power of the coal industry," said Don Safer, chairman of the Tennessee Environmental Council.

The EPA has debated whether to classify coal ash as hazardous waste for 28 years, but still no decision. No federal regulation means it's up to the states -- and many states leave it up to companies to regulate themselves.  

In Tennessee, there are seven plants with ash ponds. None of the ponds are lined, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Environmental groups said what happened in Kingston should lead to major federal regulation.

"We're not talking about that disposal of this coal ash would have put any utilities out of business.  We're talking about the fact they would have made a little less money," Safer said.

Coal companies said putting the ash in landfills would lead to higher electric bills. State inspectors have noticed erosion and leaks at several TVA ash ponds. But TVA insists all the ponds are safe.

Tennessee is producing coal ash waste at an ever-growing rate. The country gets half its electricity from coal and it's even higher in Tennessee.

Back to NewsChannel 5 Investigates

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