Thursday, March 12, 2009

Maryland Coal Combustion Waste Spills Into Potomac River

Center President Norris McDonald (Center) on North Branch
A coal ash slurry pipeline from a coal-burning power plant ruptured and dumped 4,000 gallons of coal ash sludge into the Potomac River in Maryland on March 8. The spillage contaminated the West Virginia banks of the Potomac. The hole that caused the spill was about the size of a dime, but continuously spilled the slurry for about a full day until a routine inspection by employees turned up the slurry accident.

The spill occurred where New Page Corporation—a papermaker—maintains an ash storage lagoon. New Page also operates a coal-burning power plant to produce the electricity needed to run the paper mill. At the site, three 800-foot pipelines carry the ash to a 1.2 million gallon storage lagoon across the river. The damaged Maryland pipeline was shut down; two other lines continue to operate, carrying ash slurry from the power plant to an ash storage lagoon about 800 feet away in West Virginia.

Fly ash is a residue that results from coal combustion. This waste product can contain toxins such as arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, chromium VI, cobalt, dioxins, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, PAH compounds, elenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium. The North Branch, where the facility is located, defines the Maryland-West Virginia state line for more 60 miles from Maryland's western boundary to Oldtown, where it joins the South Branch to form the main stem of the Potomac. All the Potomac except the South Branch is owned and regulated by the state of Maryland. (, AP)

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