Coal Ash Water-Contamination Much Worse Than Previously Estimated, With 39 Additional Toxic Sites Identified In 21 States 

News | August 31, 2010     

  Total of 70 Problem Sites Identified by Groups Since February Is Over and Above the   67 EPA-Acknowledged Sites; New Report Identifies Water Contamination At Coal Ash Dump Sites in AR, CT, FL, IL, IA, KY, LA, MI, NE, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, VA, and WI.

  Washington, DC /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ - Days before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) kicks off a series of regional hearings across the United States on whether and how to regulate toxic coal ash waste from coal-fired power plants, a major new study identifies 39 additional coal ash dump sites in 21 states that are contaminating drinking water or surface water with arsenic and other heavy metals. The report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Earthjustice and the Sierra Club documents the fact that state governments are not adequately monitoring the coal combustion waste (CCW) disposal sites and that the USEPA needs to enact strong new regulations to protect the public.

  The new EIP/Earthjustice/Sierra Club report shows that, at every one of the coal ash dump sites equipped with 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. (See study highlights below.) The new report is available online at

  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 USEPA bring the total number of known toxic contamination sites from coal ash pollution to 137 in 34 states. Together, the independent reports and USEPA'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.

  The 21 states containing the 39 damage sites identified in the new report are: Arkansas (2 sites, Independence and Flint Creek); Connecticut (1 site, Montville); Florida (1 site, McIntosh); Illinois (3 sites, Joliet 9, Venice, and Marion); Iowa (3 sites, Lansing, Neal North, and Neal South); Kentucky (3 sites, Spurlock, Mill Creek, and TVA Shawnee); Louisiana (3 sites, Dolet Hills, Big Cajun, and Rodemacher); Michigan (1 site, Whiting); Nebraska (1 site, Sheldon); New York (1 site, Cayuga); North Carolina (1 site, Dan River); North Dakota (2 sites, Leland Olds, and Antelope Valley); Ohio (4 sites, Uniontown aka Industrial Excess Landfill, Cardinal, Gavin, and Muskingum); Oklahoma (1 site, Northeastern); Oregon (1 site, Boardman); Pennsylvania (2 sites, Hatfield's Ferry and Bruce Mansfield aka Little Blue); South Dakota (1 site, Big Stone); Tennessee (3 sites, TVA Johnsonville, TVA Cumberland, and TVA Gallatin); Texas (1 site, LCRA Fayette Power Project); Virginia (2 sites, Glen Lyn and Clinch River); and Wisconsin (2 sites, Oak Creek aka Caledonia and Columbia).

  The first public hearing on the pending EPA coal ash rule is set for August 30, 2010 in Arlington, VA. Additional public hearings will follow in: Denver, CO on September 2; Dallas, TX on September 8; Charlotte, NC on September 14; Chicago, IL on September 16; Pittsburgh, PA on September 21; and Louisville, KY on September 28.

Jeff Stant, director, Coal Combustion Waste Initiative, Environmental Integrity Project, said: "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. Contamination of the environment and water supplies with toxic levels of arsenic, lead and other chemicals is a pervasive reality at America's coal ash disposal sites because states are not preventing it. The case for a national regulation setting common sense safeguards for states to meet, such as liners, monitoring and cleanup standards, could not be more persuasive. The need for more direct EPA involvement is clear; leaving enforcement to the same states that have refused to do their jobs for the last 40 years is simply not a responsible course of action."

  Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel, Earthjustice, said: "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. The mounting number of contaminated sites demonstrates that the states are unable or unwilling to solve this problem."

  Lyndsay Moseley, federal policy representative, Sierra Club, said: "The health risks from exposure to this toxic waste are real, and we cannot afford to ignore them any longer. 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. We're talking about people's lives here."

  The pollution in coal ash poses serious health risks. People living near unlined coal ash ponds can have an extremely high one in 50 risk of cancer. That's more than 2,000 times higher than what USEPA considers acceptable. The toxins found in coal ash have also been linked to organ disease, respiratory illness, neurological damage, and developmental problems.

   (For a version of this news release with a summary of key findings, go to

  Commenting on the report, J. Russell Boulding, environmental scientist, Boulding Soil-Water Consulting, states: "We have still only scratched the surface in defining the extent of serious contamination of groundwater and surface water at coal combustion waste disposal sites around the country."


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