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By Samuel R. Avro on Jan 22, 2009 with no responses

W. Virginia Coal-Ash Dams To Undergo Safety Inspections

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A view of the coal ash spill in Tennessee.

The state Department of Environmental Protection will be undergoing a “comprehensive review” of the rarely inspected fly ash dams in West Virginia to make sure that they are structurally sound.

14 of the 18 impoundments that will undergo inspection are currently active.

A similar dam in Tennessee broke last month, sending more than a billion gallons of wet coal ash pouring over homes, fields and streams.

“In light of what happened in Tennessee, we have put together a plan to review and inspect each of the fly-ash impoundments in the state,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said. “We want to assure the public that these structures are being looked at to ensure that they meet current dam safety standards for protection of the public.”

Officials said they would also require dam owners to provide “verification of any risk for reservoir break-through into operating, inactive, or abandoned underground mines.”

“This is just something we want to verify,” said Brian Long, chief of DEP’s dam safety section. “We’re just trying to cover all of the possible situations we could face.”

The dams in West Virginia haven’t been inspected in more than 5 years.

Six of the state’s dams are classified by the DEP as “high hazard.” It means that they are in locations which in event of a failure “may cause loss of human life or major damage to homes, other buildings, utilities or roads.”