Coal ash threat is being ignored by N.C., Sierra Club reports

The state largely ignores millions of tons of ash from coal-fired power plants that threatens to contaminate N.C. groundwater, lakes and streams, the N.C. Sierra Club says in a report today.

Coal ash has gotten increased scrutiny since a massive spill of ash sludge in Tennessee in late 2008. Ash contains potentially toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury.

The Sierra report, like a Charlotte Observer article in December, focuses on the use of dry ash to fill gullies and prepare roadbeds and building sites. More than 800,000 tons of ash was used for so-called structural fill statewide last year, the report says.

Those sites don't have to be lined to keep toxic material out of groundwater and aren't regularly checked to find whether they're tainting water. Property deeds often don't show that ash has been dumped, as state law requires.

Ash is known to have contaminated water in Robeson, Nash and Northampton counties, according to state records, the report said. More often, it said, no one looks for contamination.

"Wherever the state has looked, there have been problems for the most part," said Molly Diggins, the Sierra Club's state director.

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