Twenty newly-identified coal ash dump sites are contaminating groundwater in 10 states with arsenic and other toxin, according to a report released by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). The report, entitled “Risky Business,” was released just as the U.S. Congress is considering relaxing regulations that cover the disposal of toxic coal ash.
Coal ash, a byproduct of generating electricity, contains arsenic, selenium, lead, cadmium and mercury. According to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is struggling to decide whether to regulate the ash as a hazardous material. Industries that make drywall and other products from coal ash are pressuring Congress to block stricter regulation.
According to a press release issued by EIP, the 20 new sites identified in the report are:
- Illinois (7): Dallman Power Station, Joliet Station, Joppa Plant, Meredosia Power Station, Pearl Station, Powerton Station, and Waukegan Station;
- South Carolina (3): Cross Station, McMeekin Station, and Winyah Station;
- Iowa (2): Fair Station and Prairie Creek Generating Station;
- Texas (2): Coleto Creek Station and W.A. Parish Station;
- Florida (1): Plant Crist;
- Georgia (1): Plant Yates;
- Indiana (1): soil at an urban rail trail in Bloomington;
- Kentucky (1): Paradise Fossil Plant;
- Nevada (1): North Valmy Station; and
- Tennessee (1): Allen Fossil Plant.
All but one of identified problem coal ash dump sites have contaminated groundwater with arsenic or other toxic metals exceeding at least one Safe Drinking Water Act Maximum Contaminant Level as well as other health-based standards. The site identified in Indiana has contaminated soil along a rail trail with arsenic 900 times the federal screening levels for site cleanups, according to the EIP. Arsenic was measured above the federal drinking water standard of 10 parts per billion at 14 sites of the 20 new sites, with concentrations more than 10 times the standard at sites in Winyah, South Carolina; Meredosia, Illinois; Parish Station, Texas; and North Valmy, Nevada, sites.
Since 2010, EIP has identified 90 coal ash ponds and landfills with groundwater contamination that have been overlooked in reports prepared by the EPA. For its part, the EPA has identified 67 sites of coal ash contamination.
“Those in Congress who think this threat to groundwater and drinking water should go unmonitored, unpoliced and unaddressed are dead wrong,” Jeff Stant, director, Coal Combustion Waste Initiative, Environmental Integrity Project, said in the group’s statement. “We already have here a clear and present danger to America’s public health; it is no solution for Congress to hand authority for addressing the problem permanently to states that have refused to enforce common-sense standards for the past 30 years and hope that the whole problem then somehow goes away.”
In addtion to its report, EIP also released a letter to Congress from more than 2,700 people living near coal ash dump sites in 27 states pleading for proper federal oversight of coal ash pollution.
“We know Congress has already heard from industry lobbyists, big contributors, and state bureaucrats. We live near these dumps, and put up with their pollution year after year. Please hear our voices. We know what it is like to suffer through the daily onslaught of blowing ash, drink water from faucets contaminated with ash leachate, and see our wetlands and creeks poisoned with toxic metals like arsenic. We have complained again and again about the endless noise, dust and pollution from trucks dumping coal ash near us while we become more stressed out or sick and the value of our property plummets, with no real response from our states …” the letter states