The new Earthjustice/EIP/Sierra Club report (PDF, 6MB) shows that at every one of the coal ash dump sites equipped with
Coal ash contamination
groundwater monitoring wells concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic or lead exceed federal health-based standards for drinking water, with concentrations at Hatfield’s Ferry site in Pennsylvania reaching as high as 341 times the federal standard for arsenic.
A February 2010 EIP/Earthjustice report documented 31 coal ash dump sites in 14 states. The 39 additional sites in today’s report along with the 67 already identified by the EPA bring the total number of known toxic contamination sites from coal ash pollution to 137 sites in 34 states.
Together, the independent reports and the EPA’s own findings make clear the growing number of waters known to be poisoned by poor management of the toxic ash left over after coal is burned for electricity.
“There is no greater reason for coal ash regulation than preventing the poisoning of our water. We now have 39 more good reasons for a national coal ash rule,” said Lisa Evans, Senior Legislative Counsel at Earthjustice. “The mounting number of contaminated sites demonstrates that the states are unable or unwilling to solve this problem.”
“The contamination of water supplies, threats to people, and damage to the environment documented in this report illustrate very real and dangerous harms that are prohibited by federal law but are going on in a largely unchecked fashion at today’s coal ash dump sites,” said Jeff Stant, director, Coal Combustion Waste Initiative, Environmental Integrity Project.
“The health risks from exposure to this toxic waste are real and we cannot afford to ignore them any longer,” said Lyndsay Moseley, Federal Policy Representative with Sierra Club. “It is clear from this report that the closer we look the worse this problem becomes. The only real solution is for the EPA to adopt federally enforceable protections as part of its push to improve public health.”
Coal ash pollution poses serious health risks. People living near unlined coal ash ponds can have an extremely high 1 in 50 risk of cancer. That’s more than 2,000 times higher than what the EPA considers acceptable by coal ash (including scrubber sludge) now is at least 137 in 34 states.
Coal ash is putting drinking water from private wells at risk. Contaminated groundwater underneath at least 15 of the 39 sites is moving toward private water wells within two miles of site boundaries, according to monitoring data and public information on private well locations.
Coal ash threatens public water wells and intakes. At least 18 of the 39 contaminated sites are located within five miles of a public groundwater well that could potentially be affected by pollutants from these sites. At nine of those sites, there are at least five public water wells within a five-mile radius.
Coal ash toxins are threatening surface waters. In several cases coal ash dump sites are leaking their toxic cargo into rivers just upstream from the intakes for public water systems. Often, metals like arsenic are discharged to rivers through adjacent groundwater.
Most damaged sites are still active and virtually all show recent evidence of contamination. The damaged sites identified cannot be dismissed as a legacy of past practices that are no longer allowed today. Almost all of the facilities described in the report are active disposal sites.
Nearly 40 years after coal ash disposal stopped at the Montville site (CT), average concentrations of arsenic in groundwater collected in 2007-2009 still exceed the MCL by 21 times and are higher than measurements taken ten years ago.
Very good reasons for stricter regulations!
Meanwhile you need to take care of your health!