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Maryland Protections on Toxic Coal Ash Coming Soon?

Maryland gets about 60 percent of its in-state electricity from generation plants burning toxic coal.  According to the Maryland Department of the Environment:

A total of approximately 2 million tons of coal ash (fly and bottom ash) is generated annually from Maryland plants. Approximately 1.6 million tons of coal ash (fly and bottom ash) is generated in Maryland annually from the plants owned and operated by Constellation and Mirant.

The combustion residues are heavily laced with a variety of deadly contaminants, including heavy metals.  To date, the industry has gotten away with treating this toxic waste like ordinary waste.  “Clean coal” is a fine dream but that’s all it is.

A new report from Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice describes conditions at 31 of the nation’s toxic coal ash disposal sites: Out of Control: Mounting Damages From Coal Ash Waste Sites.

Featured in the report is Maryland’s own Brandywine Coal Ash Landfill owned and operated by Mirant. What tasty goodies have been found in surface and ground waters according to the Maryland Department of the Environment?

Cadmium, selenium, lead, manganese, iron, aluminum, sulfates, total dissolved solids, and chlorides (see page 25)

What’s the latest on Brandywine?

Citizen groups sent a notice of intent to sue to Mirant MD Ash Management, LLC and Mirant Mid-Atlantic, LLC for violations of the Clean Water Act on November 19, 2009, and MDE sent a separate notice of intent to sue for similar violations on January 15, 2010.  The citizen groups and MDE claim that Mirant is discharging pollutants into groundwater without a permit.  They also allege that Mirant is discharging antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, mercury, nitrate, nitrogen, phenols, radium, and silver from outfalls without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.  In addition, the citizen groups and MDE claim that Mirant is discharging cadmium from outfalls at levels that exceed state water quality standards.

Here’s more on the citizens’ complaint.

The Obama administration is dithering deliberating carefully over whether this nastiness should be re-classified as hazardous waste, triggering a higher level of handling in order to protect human health.  The EPA’s regulatory agenda says they plan to issue a rule in April 2010.  Friends of toxic coal, of course, want to continue the free ride.

MDE is moving ahead with its own regulations:

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has completed drafting regulations for the beneficial use and transportation of coal combustion byproducts (CCBs) as required by Maryland law.  House Bill 1305 of the 2009 Legislative Session required that draft regulations be submitted to the Administrative, Executive, Legislative Review (AELR) Committee by December 31, 2009.  Due to the technical complexity of the regulations, MDE announced on December 30, 2009, that it will be submitting the draft regulations to AELR Committee no later than January 14, 2010.  The Department submitted the draft proposals on both regulations to the AELR Committee as previously announced. The Department anticipates that these regulations may be proposed in the February 26, 2010 edition of the Maryland Register. [Emphasis added.]


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