Conflicting coal ash test results in Fairbanks, Alaska
From The (Fairbanks) Daily Miner:
The Environmental Protection Agency was in Fairbanks last month in response to a citizen petition filed over concerns around the haphazard handling and storage of coal ash. The results from a preliminary site assessment of the Aurora Power Plant in September 2011 have launched a full investigation to determine if the property should be listed on the National Priorities List for superfund sites.
At the request of local residents, a sampling project was conducted in June 2010 by the Alaska Community Action on Toxics. It reported, in “Coal Ash in Alaska: Our Health, Our Right to Know,” that samples of coal ash from local power plants, waste disposal sites and reuse sites were found to contain a range of toxic heavy metals. In almost every case, the level of toxic chemicals were found to be significantly higher than background soils in Fairbanks. Samples from the UAF coal-fired power plant showed arsenic concentrations more than 100 times higher than the standard for residential soils, and mercury was found at 70 times higher than background soils, which is certainly high enough to be a concern if inhaled in the form of windblown dust.
ADEC however, performed a study around the same time that disputed the ACAT report, and Aurora Energy provided their own samples, revealing no detectable levels of toxins.
The discrepancies between the ACAT report, ADEC’s findings and the samples provided by Aurora Energy have only raised more questions and confirmed the need for more comprehensive, reliable and up-to-date information on the composition of Alaska’s coal ash. The EPA was here to do just that — more comprehensive testing to determine if local sources of coal ash are harmful to our health and our environment. Fairbanks residents have the right to know, period.
Image: Aurora Energy’s coal ash bagging facility at its downtown Fairbanks coal plant where contractor’s dump trucks are filled with coal waste that is hauled away and often used for backfill.
Sen. Barrasso’s 10-page report, “Red Tape Making Americans Sick,” goes where no EPA wonk has gone before — into scientific studies of the link between regulation, unemployment and worsening public health.
The report cites a network of scientific sources confirming that unemployment from EPA regulations increases the likelihood of hospital visits, illnesses and premature deaths due to joblessness, thus increasing health care costs and raising questions about the claimed health savings of EPA’s regulations.
Then the senator veered off into what must have been unexpected terrain. He asked, “Has EPA ever done a cumulative impact analysis of all other proposed rules on coal-fired power plants?” He listed several rules, “the cumulative of coal ash, of cooling water intake structures, climate change, cross-state air pollution, as well as mercury reduction?”
McCarthy uncharacteristically stumbled: “We actually have done uh, a … a, our, our analysis, our economic analysis of the [indistinct] cost of state air pollution rules. The other rules that you identified have yet to be finalized.”
Barrasso must have realized he hit a nerve. “But EPA has not done a cumulative analysis?”
"We have not, no.""