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President Trump's reported to be ready to sign disaster relief bill without money for border security. Also on the Friday rundown: House bills would give millions a path to citizenship; and remembering California’s second-deadliest disaster.

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Is Coal Ash Stored Near You? Locator Tool Now Available

A new tool allows Floridians to see where toxic coal ash is being stored. (darnok/morguefile.com)
A new tool allows Floridians to see where toxic coal ash is being stored. (darnok/morguefile.com)
September 19, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida has the seventh highest coal-ash generation in the nation, producing more than 6 million tons each year. Thanks to a new online tool, Floridians now can access information about where it ends up.

The new site SoutheastCoalAsh.org is an interactive tool that allows users to see the exact location of each coal-fired power plant in the state, along with how and where coal ash is being disposed and any available data on contamination.

Adam Reaves, high-risk energy coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said the Environmental Protection Agency's coal-ash rule was a good start, but not enough to fully protect citizens.

"As utilities begin to close coal-ash pits throughout our region," he said, "we know that closure doesn't necessarily mean that cleanup of the pits will be thorough, and that the risks of ground- and surface-water contamination will be eliminated."

The site is populated with data the utilities now are required to provide under the coal-ash rule, along with other publicly available information. Coal ash is the byproduct of burning coal and contains poisonous chemicals such as arsenic, lead and mercury, which are known to cause cancer and neurological disorders.

While there still is a long road ahead to clean up coal-ash sites in Florida and across the nation, Reaves said Floridians now have the ability to make more informed choices and to speak up about areas that concern them.

"I think it's exciting to finally have requirement for utilities to give specific types of information, to actually disclose the amount of coal ash that they have at their facilities, and especially to disclose certain information about groundwater contamination," Reaves said.

Under the coal-ash rule, the utilities have a Nov. 16 deadline to post information about how they plan to close some of their coal-ash pits, what method they plan to use, whether the pits are lined or unlined, and the site's hazard level as certified by a professional engineer. Reaves said the site will be updated as that information becomes available.

More information is online at SoutheastCoalAsh.org. The coal-ash rule is at epa.gov.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL