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View Diary: EPA reaches agreement with Duke Energy over coal ash spill. But a hundred potential spills remain (14 comments)

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  •  I was encouraged that you said the spill would (5+ / 0-)

    have to be cleaned up to meet state and FEDERAL standards.  I figured the state standards were whatever Duke said was cleaned up, but I figured the federal standards would mean business.  Then I read in your final paragraph that there is no federal coal-ash standard.  So while there may be standards for clean water, I am skeptical of this being that great.  Grrr...  

    I used to really like North Carolina - having enjoyed the beaches, the outer banks and some of the mountain areas, but now I'm a little concerned for what I might see if we went back what is now 40 years later.

    •  For this case, that's not that important (6+ / 0-)
      I figured the state standards were whatever Duke said was cleaned up, but I figured the federal standards would mean business.  Then I read in your final paragraph that there is no federal coal-ash standard.  
      Cleanup standards generally aren't set for classes of material (such as coal ash, or, as EPA might call it, coal combustion residue, or CCR). Rather, standards are set based on the human and/or ecological risk posed by a material, and that depends not on the quantity of material but the concentration of hazardous substances within the material.

      CCR is known to have a range of hydrocarbons (including carcinogenic polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons) and various metals and nonmetals. Cleanups completed under the law cited in the settlement (Superfund, or as it is more specifically known, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act [aka CERCLA]) will include standards for the major hazardous constituents contained in CCR.

      CERCLA is far from a perfect law, but it is well-suited to guide this cleanup.  The reference to a lack of a "coal-ash standard" likely refers to pending rulemaking under another environmental law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which would govern both how CCR is managed as well as how it would be cleaned up if released to the environment.

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