20 September 2010

High Risk Coal Ash Impoundment: Pleasants Power Station

Posted by John Freeland

Pleasants Power Station, near Belmont, WV.

Not to pick on this power plant, which is owned by Allegheny Energy Supply Company, but it is a good example of this type of facility. Coal-fired power plants need a lot of cooling water, so they are located on large bodies of water, like the Ohio River.

The power plant is a relatively minor portion of the overall footprint of the entire power station, which is mostly taken up by ash ponds. The McElroy’s Run Impoundment here is well over 200 acres and fills a portion of McElroy’s Run valley, a tributary to the Ohio River.

The EPA rates this impoundment and 49 others as “high risk,” due to their proximity to residential areas. The EPA believes failure of the impoundment, which is substantially higher in elevation than the Ohio River, would threaten human lives. The high risk rating, however, does not pertain to the probability that the impoundment will fail, and spill.

There are four big problems with coal, at least. First, it’s a dirty fuel; second it’s a big emitter or carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas; third, getting it out of the earth causes land and water degradation; and fourth, it is so plentiful in North America and so valuable that it’s hard to give it up. Look for it to be with us for a long time, but gradually phased out.

There’s more on Pleasants Power Plant at SourceWatch.org