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Davis letter raises questions about coal ash

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, began circulating a letter around the House of Representatives Wednesday, calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate claims from Perry County that the ash dumped there from a Tennessee spill be evaluated for health and safety concerns.

In the letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Davis asks for the agency “to establish consistent standards at the federal level that would fully address these legitimate concerns about the content of coal ash waste.”

He said Pennsylvania refused the shipment because the ash did not meet that state’s environmental standards.

Alabama’s standards are less rigorous, Davis said, which allowed the state to take the ash.

“If coal ash poses an unacceptable level of risk, inconsistent state standards should be immediately replaced with national guidelines that would put the safety of the people in one community on the same level as families living in another,” he said.

About 3 million tons of coal ash from a December 2008 spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant in eastern Tennessee has been transported by rail for storage in Perry County near the Dallas County line.

Questions have been raised by residents in the area about the ash. Will it impact the drinking water sources of nearby communities? Does the coal ash constitute a health hazard now or in the future?

Perry County is in Davis’ 7th Congressional District.

Davis said members of his staff have met with Perry County leaders and people concerned about the difference in state safety standards.