Coal Ash Chronicles: The whole story of America's second-largest waste stream
Otherwise, here's the skinny:
What is coal ash?
It's the waste produced when coal is burned to generate electricity.
In 2007, Scientific American reported that it's more radioactive than nuclear waste.
Why should you care about coal ash?
It could be in your water.
Coal ash is full of heavy, often toxic metals like arsenic, hexavalent chromium, selenium and more. It's often stored in slurry ponds that contaminate groundwater and drain into rivers and lakes that often serve as drinking water sources for large populations.
It's unregulated federally and only barely by some states. The EPA has tried to regulate it, but Congress and lobbyists are attempting to prevent regulation -- a bill that will prevent regulation has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is before the Senate. The Obama Administration has stopped short of vowing to veto it.
The ponds that hold coal ash can collapse, leak, breech and contaminate the groundwater beneath them. See the Tennessee Valley Authority spill of Dec. 2008, the breech in Wilmington, N.C., in 2009, the Lake Michigan spill of 2011, and the Little Blue Run leak that's happening now.
But, those aren't the only issues with coal ash. The biggest issues are the constant and invisible water contamination it causes and the power behind the push to keep it unregulated.
Why I need a Kickstart:
Journalists make jack, and investigative journalism is both expensive and critical in a democracy.
This summer, I'm launching a nationwide tour of coal ash ponds and dumps so I can bring you the real story, the whole story of coal ash and how it affects our nation's drinking water supplies.
I expect to be on the road for at least a year, and, when possible, in the air photographing coal ash dumps with J Henry Fair.
- (60 days)