Coal ash accumulation on a pool toy and plant from an AR resident's yard
I've heard complaints from citizens, especially in northwest Arkansas about the presence of fly-ash, or coal ash - waste from coal plants that contains toxic chemicals and metals. This material is sometimes dumped in pits that contain natural gas drilling waste. Amy Mall, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, has a report on her blog about coal ash drifting onto people's property. She notes that coal ash is exempt from regulation as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or the RCRA. Mall writes:
RCRA is the principal federal law designed to ensure safe management of hazardous waste and prevent new toxic waste sites. It sets standards for waste management in order to prevent harm to human health and the environment, and provides a powerful incentive for a company to minimize waste and pollution.
Most oil and gas waste is also exempt from the hazardous waste provisions of RCRA, due to a 1988 EPA decision. At the time, an EPA official was quoted in the press as attributing this decision to "....solely political reasons, despite a scientific determination of the hazardousness of the waste." With cleaner, affordable alternatives available to industry, it's time to close this loophole.