Over the last few weeks the US Department of Environmental Protection has been holding a series of field hearings on regulations that cover coal ash pits. The pits are often found near power plants. The ash, mixed with water, is dumped into ponds to dry. The slurry contains high levels of several toxic chemicals and elements. Environmentalists argue that many of the pits are leaking into nearby waterways and into wells in the area. The EPA over the years has issued guidelines and standards for the ash ponds and has a long list of standards when it comes to acceptable toxin levels in ground and surface water. Many power companies argue that those regulations are enough but many environmentalists argue that the regulations to do not go far enough. In most instances it is up to the state where the power plant resides to monitor and regulate the ponds. A recent study from a group of environmental organizations finds some states are lax in their enforcement duties. Those groups have been using the hearings to call for the Federal Government to take over the regulation of the retention ponds.
The Pittsburgh EPA hearing will be held Tuesday Sept 21 at the Omni Hotel downtown. Three sessions will be held. One in the morning, another in the afternoon and a third session will be held in the evening. The first session is to begin at 10am and the last will conclude at 9pm. The other start and end times will float. Each speaker will be given 3 minutes. While all speaking slots in Pittsburgh have been filled the DEP may allow for extra speakers at the end of each session.