Notable Coal Ash Spills [Slideshow]

The coal ash spill in December 2008 at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal-fired Kingston power plant may have triggered regulatory action, but it wasn’t the first or the most devastating disaster in the coal industry’s history.

Coal Ash Spills at Power Facilities

<strong>1967—Carbo, Va.: </strong>A dike surrounding a coal ash pond at American Electric Power's Clinch River Plant collapses, releasing 130 million gallons of fly ash slurry into the Clinch River. <em>Courtesy: AEP</em> <strong>December 2000—Milledgeville, Ga.: </strong>About 35,000 gallons of wastewater laden with coal ash is released from Georgia Power’s Plant Branch into Lake Sinclair when a mechanical failure of an isolation valve causes water from an ash pond to be siphoned back and discharged through the cooling water tunnel system into the lake. Plant Branch has since been retired to meet environmental rules, though the EPA continues to scrutinize three of its five coal ash ponds, which have received a significant or high hazard rating. <em>Courtesy: Lake Sinclair Blog </em>
<strong>July 2002—Cartersville, Ga.: </strong>A four-acre sinkhole in an ash pond at Georgia Power's Plant Bowen sends 2.25 million gallons of ash and water into Euharlee Creek, an Etowah River tributary. The state fined Georgia Power $31,250 for the spill. In September 2008, just months before the Kingston spill in Tennessee, another release of ash at the plant occurred due to rainfall, which triggered sloughing of the dry stacked ash, causing it to overflow into the main dike. <em>Courtesy: Panoramio</em>
<strong>August 23, 2005—Lower Mount Bethel Township, Pa.: </strong>The rupture of a wooden wall at a settling basin at PPL Corp.'s Martins Creek power plant releases 100 million gallons of fly ash slurry across local fields and into the Oughoughton Creek and the Delaware River. PPL, which has since combined its assets with Riverstone Partners to form Talen Energy, in July 2015 reached a $1.3 million settlement with state regulators for damages caused by that spill. The Martin Creek units were retired in 2007. <em>Source: EPA</em> <strong>February 14, 2007—Morgan County, Ind.: </strong>The breach of an internal and then an external levee at Indiana Power and Light Co.'s (IPL's) Eagle Valley Generating Station releases 30 million gallons of ash sluice water to a discharge canal, which led to the White River. On January 30, 2008, the levees failed again in the same location, releasing another 30 million gallons of sluice water. The incident prompted IPL to sue Lexington, Ky.-based Fuller Mossbarger Scott and May Engineers, which was hired (for $45,500) to examine and supervise repairs to the levees. <em>Courtesy: IPL</em> <strong>December 22, 2008—Roane County, Tenn.:</strong> Just before 1 a.m., an ash dike ruptures at an 84-acre solid waste containment area at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant, releasing 1.1 billion gallons of coal fly ash slurry. The image on the left shows the area before the spill in November 2008, and the image on the right shows the area at the end of December 2008. <em>Source: NASA</em>
<strong>January 2009—Jackson County, Ala.: </strong>Just weeks after the Kingston spill, 10,000 gallons of gypsum slurry leaks from a break in an impoundment at TVA's Widows Creek Fossil Plant. <em>Source: TVA</em>
<strong>October 31, 2011—Oak Creek, Wis.: </strong>The collapse of a large section of bluff sends dirt, mud, and coal ash (used to fill the ravine area during the 1950s) cascading into the shoreline next to Lake Michigan. The incident leaves a debris field stretching 120 yards long and 50 to 80 yards wide at the bottom. <em>Courtesy: We Energies</em>
<strong>February 2, 2014—Eden, N.C.: </strong>A spill at Duke Energy’s Dan River site in North Carolina near the Virginia border dumps 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of polluted water into the river.  <em>Courtesy: Waterkeeper Alliance</em>
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February 14, 2007—Morgan County, Ind.: The breach of an internal and then an external levee at Indiana Power and Light Co.'s (IPL's) Eagle Valley Generating Station releases 30 million gallons of ash sluice water to a discharge canal, which led to the White River. On January 30, 2008, the levees failed again in the same location, releasing another 30 million gallons of sluice water. The incident prompted IPL to sue Lexington, Ky.-based Fuller Mossbarger Scott and May Engineers, which was hired (for $45,500) to examine and supervise repairs to the levees. Courtesy: IPL

Other Notable Coal Ash Spills

<strong>October 21, 1966—Aberfan, Wales, UK: </strong>The collapse of a dump containing coal mining debris over a Welsh village kills 116 children and 28 adults, many of whom had just started the day at a primary school. <em>Source: Wikimedia Commons </em>
<strong>February 26, 1972—Logan County, W.Va.: </strong>The failure of the Pittston Coal Co.'s coal slurry impoundment dam #3 unleashes a flood of black wastewater, killing 125 people, and injuring 1,121. The incident happens four days after the dam had been declared "satisfactory" by a federal mine inspector. <em>Source: Wikimedia Commons </em>
<strong>October 11, 2000—Martin County, Ky.: </strong>The bottom of a coal slurry impoundment owned by Massey Energy breaks through into an abandoned underground mine below, sending 306 million gallons of slurry out via two tributaries of the Tug Fork River. No injuries or deaths were reported, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has  called it "one of the worst environmental disasters in the Southern U.S." <em>Courtesy: KellysWebDesign.com</em>
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October 11, 2000—Martin County, Ky.: The bottom of a coal slurry impoundment owned by Massey Energy breaks through into an abandoned underground mine below, sending 306 million gallons of slurry out via two tributaries of the Tug Fork River. No injuries or deaths were reported, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called it "one of the worst environmental disasters in the Southern U.S." Courtesy: KellysWebDesign.com

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)