New EPA Data Show Coal Ash Problem Much Worse

Number of coal ash ponds nationwide increases by over 60%

Washington, D.C. – Today the EPA released information revealing the existence of hundreds of previously unknown coal ash dumps nationwide. The information comes pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) by Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice.

The data released today by the EPA reveal that there are at least 451 more coal ash ponds than previously acknowledged—significantly increasing the known threat from coal ash. The EPA had admitted to 710 ponds, and today’s numbers increase that total to at least 1,161. In addition, the agency previously did not know how many ponds were unlined.  Today’s data indicate that at least 535 ponds (46 percent) operate without a liner to prevent hazardous chemicals from reaching drinking water sources.

While 562 ponds are recorded as having a liner (64 plants did not answer the question), the EPA has not yet released data regarding what kind of liner is employed. Only a composite liner is sufficient to prevent the escape of dangerous levels of contaminants, and the EPA has estimated that the use of composite liners at coal ash ponds is very low.

The new data also reveal a significant increase in the number of coal ash landfills.  In 2010, the EPA estimated that there were approximately 337 coal ash landfills, and the agency admitted that it did not know how many of these dumps had basic controls such as liners to stop the landfills from leaking. Today we know that there are at least 393 coal ash landfills (active, planned, and retired), 43 percent of the active and retired landfills lack liners; 52 percent of these active and retired landfills lack leachate collection systems.

.For the press release, click here.

For a table of the coal combustion waste disposal units identified in the EPA data, click here.

For a fact sheet summarizing the EPA data, click here.