SEJournal Online is the digital news magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Learn more about SEJournal Online, including submission, subscription and advertising information.
In the two months since the disastrous December 2008 coal ash deluge in Tennessee, the issue has become much more prominent nationally, and additional information has been trickling out.
But until now, it's taken a lot of legwork to figure out exactly where deposits of coal ash, which is produced as waste at coal-fired power plants, are located. That has been made easier following the Feb. 19, 2009, release of a map and report by the Center for Public Integrity that were being developed several months before the Tennessee dam holding back coal ash collapsed.
CPI has found information on hundreds of coal ash deposits in ponds and landfills, and there could be many more. The investigative journalism organization has zoomed in on the known sites by zip code, name of the associated power plant, and tonnage of the coal ash (though the tonnage isn't available for all sites).
There are deposits in almost every state. EPA acknowledges that more than 60 sites pose a danger to health and the environment, and these are highlighted on the map. Critics say many more could pose similar threats.
The CPI information gets you very close to the known sites, by pinning down the zip code. However, it doesn't identify the actual site location. To help you find out more information about individual sites, it may help to use the resources covered in the Jan. 7, 2009, TipSheet:
For additional perspective on the issue, one example is provided by an Associated Press article that ran in USA Today.
- "Toxic Coal Ash Piling up in Ponds in 32 States," Jan. 9, 2009, by Dina Cappiello.
Many other articles have covered various aspects of the decades-old controversy over these sites, which continue to grow in number and size as coal is burned.