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Flint Creek Power Plant Primary Bottom Ash Pond

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

Flint Creek Power Plant Primary Bottom Ash Pond is a coal ash disposal site associated with Flint Creek Power Plant, owned and operated by American Electric Power subsidiary Southwestern Electric Power near Gentry, Arkansas.

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Site data

Information below derived from EPA's Coal Ash Survey database;[1] GPS coordinates courtesy of Earthjustice researchers.

  • Owner: Southwestern Electric Power
  • Parent company: American Electric Power
  • Associated coal plant: Flint Creek Power Plant
  • Location: Gentry, AR
  • GPS coordinates: 36.2600, -94.5200
  • Hazard potential: Low
  • Year commissioned: 1978
  • Year(s) expanded:
  • Material(s) stored: Fly ash, Bottom ash, Boiler slag
  • Professional Engineer (PE) designed?: Yes
  • PE constructed?: Yes
  • PE monitored?: Yes
  • Significant deficiencies identified: None
  • Corrective measures: None
  • Surface area (acres): 43
  • Storage capacity (acre feet): 484
  • Unit Height (feet): 46
  • Historical releases: None
  • Additional notes:

Coal waste in the United States

A January 2009 study by The New York Times following the enormous TVA coal ash spill found that there are more than 1,300 surface impoundments across the U.S. containing coal waste, with some sites as large as 1,500 acres.[2] Also in January 2009, an Associated Press study found that 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to the one that ruptured at Kingston Fossil Plant. The states with the most storage in coal ash in ponds are Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. The AP's analysis found that in 2005, 721 power plants generating at least 100 MW of electricity produced 95.8 million tons of coal ash, about 20 percent of which - or almost 20 million tons - ended up in surface ponds. The rest of the ash winds up in landfills or is sold for other uses.[3] In June 2009, EPA released its list of 44 "high hazard potential" coal waste sites, which included 12 sites in North Carolina, 9 in Arizona, 6 in Kentucky, 6 in Ohio, and 4 in West Virginia.[4] The full list is available here.

Flint Creek ranked 96th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[5] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[6]

Flint Creek Power Plant ranked number 96 on the list, with 221,456 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[5]

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Arkansas, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[7] The report mentioned Arkansas based Flint Creek Power Plant and the Independence Steam Station were two sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[8]

The 2010 EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club report, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," identified 39 more coal combustion waste (CCW) disposal sites in 21 states that have contaminated groundwater or surface water with toxic metals and other pollutants, including Flint, based on monitoring data and other information available in state agency files. The report builds on an earlier 2010 report by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites", which documented similar damage at 31 coal combustion waste dumpsites in 14 states. When added to the 67 damage cases that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has already acknowledged, the total number of sites polluted by coal ash or coal scrubber sludge comes to at least 137 in 34 states.

The report listed groundwater downgradient of the Flint coal waste landfill has been contaminated with lead up to 33 times the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), barium, selenium, cadmium and chromium exceeding the MCL, and iron, manganese and silver exceeding Arkansas groundwater standards. 2009 assessment monitoring found selenium at 3 times the MCL, and sulfate and total dissolved solids (TDS) at 8 and 5 times the SMCL, respectively, in a well 360 feet downgradient from the landfill. A seep with high metals discharges to a stream that drains to ash ponds, which then discharge to an off-site recreational reservoir without limits or monitoring of ash metals. 45 private wells are within a 2-mile radius of the plant. Six public intermittent wells are within a 5-mile radius of the plant.[9]

Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Flint Creek waste site

A report released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011 stated that there are many health threats associated with a toxic cancer-causing chemical found in coal waste called hexavalent chromium. The report specifically cited 29 sites in 17 states where the contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash and included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In Arkansas, the Flint Creek Power Plant was noted as having a high level of chromium at its coal waste landfill.[10]

According to the report, the Flint Creek coal ash site is a landfill. Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) was reported at the site above 128 ppb (parts per billion) - 6,400 times the proposed California drinking water goals and 1.28 times the federal drinking water standard.[10][11][12][13][14]

As a press release about the report read:

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[15]

According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.[10]

Citizen groups

Resources

References

  1. Coal Ash Survey Results, Environmental Protection Agency, accessed December 2009.
  2. Shaila Dewan, "Hundreds of Coal Ash Dumps Lack Regulation," New York Times, January 7, 2009.
  3. Dina Cappiello, "Toxic Coal Ash Piling up in Ponds in 32 States," Associated Press, January 9, 2009.
  4. Shaila Dewan, "E.P.A. Lists ‘High Hazard’ Coal Ash Dumps," New York Times, June 30, 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  6. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
  7. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  8. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  9. Jeff Stant, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club report, August 26, 2010.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
  11. "Damage Case Report for Coal Compustion Wastes," August 2008
  12. U.S. EPA Proposed Coal Ash Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35128
  13. EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," August 2010
  14. EarthJustice and Environmental Integrity Project, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites," May 2010
  15. "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.

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