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First-of-their-kind coal ash regulations were issued by the Obama administration over the December holidays, an attempt to safeguard communities from coal ash impoundment failures such as the catastrophic Kingston, Tenn., spill in 2008, and February’s massive Dan River spill.
Released by the U.S. EPA on Dec. 19, the regulations take aim at preventing groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal.
Six years in the works, the first federal requirements for impoundments and landfills to address coal ash risks include:
• The closure of surface impoundments and landfills that fail to meet engineering and structural standards and will no longer receive coal ash
• Reducing the risk of catastrophic failure by requiring regular inspections of the structural safety of surface impoundments
• Restrictions on the location of new surface impoundments and landfills so that they cannot be built in sensitive areas such as wetlands and earthquake zones
• Protecting groundwater by requiring monitoring, immediate cleanup of contamination, and closure of unlined surface impoundments that are polluting groundwater
• Protecting communities using fugitive dust controls to reduce windblown coal ash dust
• Requiring liner barriers for new units and proper closure of surface impoundments and landfills that will no longer receive CCRs.