‘In Harm’s Way’ report finds 39 coal ash dumps have contaminated water

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From Green Right Now Reports

A report released today shows that 39 coal ash dump sites in 21 states have spewed arsenic, lead and other heavy metals into ground and surface water.

The coal ash dump sites are either polluting groundwater or draining into rivers, according to the study by the Environmental Integrity Project with support from Sierra Club and Earthjustice.

In several instances, the dump sites are leaking toxic chemicals into rivers just upstream from public water system intakes, according to an Earth Justice summary of the report. Earthjustice and EIP released a similar report, involving 31 other coal ash dump sites, in February, bringing to 70 the number of coal ash dump sites examined. The report discusses these sites, and notes there are 67 others known to the EPA that have contaminated water.

The report (available online as a large pdf file), details cases in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, among others, where coal ash dumping sites have released toxic chemicals into the surrounding environment.

At the 35 of the sites reviewed that have groundwater monitoring, the investigators found high levels of arsenic and lead, which are known to cause health problems for humans and wildlife. Concentrations measured in ground water (often well water) were many times the minimum allowed by the EPA. Many sites that failed to contain the coal waste appeared to be in violation of federal law, because they were not sufficiently lined.

At some sites, compound concentrations were exceedingly high, such as the levels of arsenic at Hatfield’s Ferry, Penn., that were 340 times the standard allowed.

In some cases, state or federal authorities had addressed problems by requiring that affected rural residents be placed on piped water supplies. But environmental damage to rivers and groundwater often went unaddressed, or had not been documented because states don’t require monitoring. The report argues for greater federal regulation.

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