A public hearing concerning coal ash regulation is being held in downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed national regulations about the disposal and management of coal ash from coal fired power plants.
The ash is the byproduct of coal and is disposed in liquid form at large surface impoundments and in solid form at landfills. It can leak into water and waft through the air. The residuals contain mercury, cadmium and arsenic.
The EPA has put forward two proposals regarding the disposal of coal ash. One would be a program of federally enforceable requirements for its management and disposal. The other option would allow the EPA to set performance standards for waste management facilities and would be enforced primarily through citizen suits. Under both approaches coal ash would be able to be recycled as a component of a product such as concrete.
Representatives from the EPA have hosted public hearings around the country. On Tuesday they were in Pittsburgh.
“We breathe, we walk in it, it’s on our clothes it’s on our body hair and even on our cars parked in the parking lot,“ said Herman Marshman Jr., President of a utility workers union, he works for First Energy in Midland. He was among dozens of speakers who spoke on Tuesday morning. He urged the EPA to make a choice that would benefit citizens and the environment first. "Everyone is responsible the EPA, the DEP, the community, the employers of these utilities, I’m not advocating either or, I just want everybody to make the right decision."
Two years ago, an impoundment holding coal ash in Kingston, Tennessee broke open and caused a massive spill that displaced people and caused serious environmental damage.