As part of its ongoing efforts to protect human health and the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has posted a list of 44 “high hazard potential” impoundments containing coal combustion residuals, commonly referred to as coal ash, at 26 different coal burning electric utility facilities. According to an EPA press release, the agency is releasing this information after interagency coordination with FEMA’s Risk Analysis Division Mitigation Directorate and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Designating these units reflects EPA’s commitment to assessing risks and vulnerabilities in order to protect critical infrastructure — and the American people — from disaster. A high hazard potential rating is not related to the stability of those impoundments but to the potential for harm should the impoundment fail.

“The presence of liquid coal ash impoundments near our homes, schools and business could pose a serious risk to life and property in the event of an impoundment rupture” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “By compiling a list of these facilities, EPA will be better able to identify and reduce potential risks by working with states and local emergency responders.”

Following the failure of an impoundment at the TVA facility in Kingston, Tennessee, in December 2008, EPA has been gathering information on coal combustion residual impoundments from electrical utilities nationwide and conducting on-site evaluations to determine the impoundments’ vulnerabilities. Working closely with other federal agencies and the states, EPA will review the information gathered from this investigation and will require appropriate action at any facility that is found to pose a risk. The results and analysis of this investigation will be compiled in a report and made available to the public and will help strengthen our ability to protect the American people, which is our foremost and urgent priority.

The list of units was compiled from information submitted to EPA by the electric utilities in response to EPA’s March 9, 2009, information request. The 44 units will receive high priority attention as EPA continues its assessment of impoundment safety.

As announced by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, on March 9, 2009, EPA has committed to proposing regulation on the management of coal combustion wastes by December 31, 2009.

For more information on the list of the units and other information on EPA’s efforts in this area: