August 21, 2009

Study: Dried coal ash from spill dangerous

Sludge from the spill at a coal-fired power plant in Tennessee can dry into dust containing dangerous levels of arsenic, mercury and radium, a study finds.

The report on the Kingston power plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority was prepared by scientists at Duke University and published in Environmental Science & Technology, The (Nashville) Tennessean said.

"Our study highlights the high probability that as the ash dries, fine particulates enriched with these elements will be re-suspended in the air as dust and could have a severe health impact on local residents or

workers who inhale them," Avner Vengosh, an associate professor of earth and ocean sciences, said.

TVA has been involved with the Duke scientists in their research.

More than 1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry spilled at the plant when a holding pond collapsed in December 2008. The sludge covered 300 acres of land, destroying several houses, and spilled into tributaries of the Tennessee River.

Vengosh said very small particles of coal ash are more dangerous because they are likely to be inhaled deep in the lungs.