Nearly one week after the worse spill of coal ash in the nation’s history, it’s time to start thinking about where other vulnerable dump sites might lie. One possibility: the the Cumberland Park Project near Narrows, Virginia, along the New River.
The project was conceived by an organization called the Giles County Partnerships for Excellence, and American Electric Power. The idea is to use coal combustion wastes from a nearby power plant as foundation fill to create a 30-acre site along the river for commercial use. Proceeds from the sale of the site are supposedly going to support the schools in Giles county. But according to the Roanoke Times, no one from the Giles County schools district sits on the partnership’s board.
And the project has the potential to pose environmental and human health risks along the historic and environmentally sensitive New River. It turns out that the coal ash is being dumped in an unlined site within the flood plain of the New River — and in close proximity to the water table. This was made possible by a loophole in Virginia law that is allowing American Electric Power to dump the waste without essential safety precautions — because it is being put to “beneficial use.”
Seining to check on endemic species along the banks of the New River in Virginia during a canoe trip in October, 2008. The river and residents who get their drinking water from it may be endangered by the unlined coal ash dump going in near the town of Narrows. (Photo by Tom Yulsman)
As we now know in the aftermath of the Tennessee catastrophe, coal ash can be contaminated with toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and lead, and even radioactive elements. And when it comes in contact with water, those contaminants can leach out to poison the environment and drinking water supplies. The EPA now says that lagoons and landfills filled with coal combustion waste may present a cancer risk that is 10,000 times greater than federal rules allow, yet it has failed to issue regulations.
For a map of the area, go here
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