The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list numbers 44 coal ash waste impoundment sites at 26 power plants.

All are rated as having “high hazard potential” – a rating the EPA says “indicates that a failure will probably cause a loss of human life”.

EPA administrator Lisa P Jackson said: “The presence of liquid coal ash impoundments near our homes, schools and business could pose a serious risk to life and property in the event of an impoundment rupture.

“By compiling a list of these facilities, EPA will be better able to identify and reduce potential risks by working with states and local emergency responders.”

The publication of the list at the end of June comes amid heightened public concern about coal-ash pile safety after the collapse of one at a Tennessee Valley Authority plant near Knoxville last December (2008).

It swamped hundreds of acres, damaged properties and polluted a Tennessee River tributary resulting in a clean-up bill estimated at almost $1 billion.

Some have labelled it America’s worst environmental disaster.

Congressional leaders have been urging the EPA to make the list public to make them safe.

Kentucky congressman John Yarmouth welcomed the decision.

He said: “The public has a right to know if a coal-ash waste impoundment is located in their neighbourhood.

“I am glad the EPA did the right thing by releasing this list so that federal officials can more easily work together with state and local authorities to ensure that protections are in place for families living near these impoundments.”

EPA officials said the list is part of their review of several hundred coal-ash impoundments across the nation.

The impoundments contain coal combustion residuals (CCRs), known as coal ash. CCRs are made up of fly ash, bottom ash, coal slag, and flue gas desulfurization (FGD) residue.

They also contain a range of metals such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium, lead, and mercury although the concentrations are generally low.

The EPA warns that if CCRs are not properly managed they “may cause a risk to human health and the environment”.

The 44 sites are at 26 different coal burning electric utility facilities in Kentucky, Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

For the full list visit the following EPA webpage.

David Gibbs

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