Vows to ensure comprehensive regulation of coal sludge in wake of Tennessee coal ash contamination. 


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today asked the Environmental Protection Agency what it was doing to protect the public and the environment from power plant wastes following numerous media reports asserting that hundreds of toxic waste sites go unregulated nationwide.

Last month, a pond containing billions of gallons of toxic coal ash ruptured in Tennessee, spewing billions of gallons of sludge across hundreds of acres. The toxic sludge contains many heavy metals including arsenic and other toxic substances that, upon exposure, can lead to cancer or birth defects.

“There are hundreds of these toxic ticking time bombs across the country that are being held back only by earth and faith, and that’s not good enough to protect the public, said Rep. Markey, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee. “I want to know what the EPA is doing to protect the public from the hazards of these toxic coal ash ponds, and any other threats to public safety and health. I do not want to leave anything to chance.”

In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Markey pressed for more information on the regulation of the toxic bi-products from coal-burning power plants and potential steps the agency is taking to regulate this toxic sludge.

Yet another waste pond ruptured Friday near Stevenson, Ala., spewing toxins into a tributary of the Tennessee River. A recent analysis of Energy Department data conducted by the Associated Press found that nationwide, 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to the one that ruptured last month in Tennessee.

“Despite the widespread existence of these sites and the widespread identification of contamination caused by them, there is no national policy in place to ensure that the health and safety of the surrounding communities are protected,” Markey wrote in the letter.

“This is unacceptable and I intend to remedy the problem.”

A full text of the letter is available below.


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January 13, 2009

CONTACT: Daniel Reilly (202) 225-2836