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February 17, 2010

Using Coal Ash to Melt Ice?

Co-written by Bruce Nilles and Lyndsay Moseley, Director and Associate Washington Representative, respectively, for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

On Thursday, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will start using coal ash to melt the thick ice on the Platte River in Omaha, Nebraska, to prevent ice jams and severe flooding. From the article:

"The hope is that the dark ash will absorb the sun's energy and help 'rot' the ice so it breaks up into smaller chunks and washes downstream, Berndt said."
Coal ash contains heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic and more – all of which are linked to increased rates of cancer, learning disabilities and reproductive problems. The metals can be ingested through the dust or when dissolved in water.

This strikes us as a strange and dangerous move – one community is going to add coal ash to their water while many others are worried about how it will affect their water supplies.

For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority is working around the clock to get tons of coal ash out of the Emory and Clinch rivers to protect public health and the environment in Tennessee.

Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is drafting a rule to mandate safe coal ash disposal practices. Yet for some reason officials in Nebraska think it's is a good idea to take 86 tons of bottom ash from a coal plant and dump it onto the river ice via cropduster.

We are looking into this action by the Army Corps and the state to see if it violates any environmental laws designed to protect the rivers and drinking water sources.

For now, please urge EPA to move forward with federal safeguards that protect our waterways from improper coal ash disposal. And if you’re in or near Omaha, Nebraska, write a letter to the editor today!


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