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
[…] Terra Central. […]
I would also add that besides CO2, other pollutants from coal include mercury, soot, and acid rain. Coal seems “cheap” but this assumes all the environmental costs are “free”, but nothing is really free or cheap. We also shouldn’t forget all the coal miners killed getting it out of the ground, and the lung disease that results from mining and from air-quality issues. “Expensive” alternatives such asa wind, solar, nuclear, and natural gas really start looking much “cheaper” when you look at all the costs of “cheap coal’. cheers P Colgan
Patrick: Thanks for the comment. The biggest hurdle seems to be getting from a strongly entrenched and, for now, highly profitable energy platform to something cleaner, safer, less disruptive to the landscape, and ultimately cheaper than what we have now. The financial accounting needs to pull in more factors; the incentives need to change.