The Administrative Regulations Review subcommittee (“ARRS”) will be reviewing the proposed coal combustion residual regulation of the Energy and Environment Cabinet.
As the current regulatory program currently stands, disposal of “special wastes,” including coal-combustion wastes in landfills occurs under an individual permit that is subject to technical review by the Energy and Environment Cabinet, and is subject to public notice and public comment.
However, the proposed regulations would grant a permit to coal combustion waste landfills and coal combustion waste ponds, allowing these landfills and ash ponds to operate with no advance technical review by the agency and public opportunity to comment on or seek administrative review.
Over 9 million tons of coal ash is generated in Kentucky per year, making Kentucky the 5th in the United States for ash generation. Kentucky has the third largest coal ash storage capacity in the United States, “equivalent to covering the Churchill Downs Racetrack…under 800 feet of toxic sludge.” By EPA’s calculation, 100% of the toxic chemical releases to land of arsenic, chromium, and mercury in Kentucky come from disposal of coal ash in landfills and ponds. Coal combustion waste (“CCW”) contains more than 40 constituents including antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, silver, thallium, lead, hexavalent chromium, cadmium, selenium, and mercury. The carcinogens contained in coal ash have contaminated drinking water supplies across the United States. The EPA has found that living next to a coal ash disposal site can increase your risk of cancer or other diseases, with as much as a 1 in 50 chance of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated by arsenic. The EPA also found that exposure to coal ash causes 900 cancers per 100,000 exposed individual compared to 100 cancer cases per 100,000 individuals who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Prolonged exposure to the toxic metals in coal ash can cause several types of cancer, heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, kidney disease, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal illness, birth defects, impaired bone growth in children, nervous system impacts, cognitive deficits, developmental delays, and behavioral problems. “In short, coal toxics have the potential to injure all of the major organ systems, damage physical health and development, and even contribute to mortality.”
The proper management of coal combustion waste is essential for the protection of human health and the environment.