Since May 2009, the EPA has been conducting on-site structural integrity assessments of coal ash impoundments and ponds at electric utilities. The EPA provides copies of the structural integrity assessment reports to each facility and requests the facilities implement the reports’ recommendations and provide their plans for taking action. The action plans released address recommendations from assessments of 70 impoundments at 20 facilities. Many of these facilities have already begun implementing the EPA’s recommendations. Last year, the EPA completed comprehensive assessments for 60 impoundments that were considered to have a high risk of causing harm if the impoundment were to fail.
In addition to the action plans, the EPA is also releasing assessment reports on the structural integrity of an additional 38 coal ash impoundments at 17 facilities across the country. Of these units, nine received a “poor” rating and none of the units received an “unsatisfactory” rating, the lowest possible the EPA rating. The poor ratings were given because the units lacked some of the necessary engineering documentation required in the assessments, and not because the units are unsafe. Based on analysis from the engineers who conducted the assessments, the ratings for these units are likely to improve once the proper documentation is submitted.
The assessment reports were completed by firms under contract to the EPA that are experts in the field of dam integrity, and reflect the best professional judgment of those engineering firms. A draft of the reports has been reviewed by the facilities and the states for factual accuracy. The comments on the draft reports are posted on the EPA’s website. The EPA is continuing to review the reports and technical recommendations and is working with the facilities to ensure the recommendations are implemented in a timely manner.