Canary in the Coal Pond - Coal Plants are not only Polluting Above Ground
In tests conducted in late 2017, one in three coal-fired power plants nationwide (USA) detected “statistically significant” amounts of contaminants, including harmful chemicals like arsenic, in the groundwater around their facilities.
This information, which utility companies had to post on their websites in March, became public for the first time under an Obama-era environmental rule regulating coal ash, the waste generated from burning coal.
Mixed with water and stored in ponds and landfills at nearly 300 facilities across the country, coal ash has been found to contain carcinogens and toxins like mercury and lead. For decades, people living near coal-fired plants have feared the ash was seeping into the ground and contaminating their drinking water.
But now, just as residents are getting their first indication of whether neighboring plants might pose a threat, US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is advancing a proposal to amend the rule, giving states the authority to lessen consequences and weaken requirements for polluting power plants.
Pruitt has said the plan would save utilities an estimated $31 million to $100 million per year in compliance costs and give states flexibility to set their own standards that are “at least as protective” as the federal ones, rather than simply installing the EPA’s nationwide.
In November 2016, the first baseline samples from those monitoring wells produced elevated levels of arsenic, fluoride and lead. The company tested again in January, February, March and April 2017. Each time, it found elevated levels of contaminants.
The standard for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts per billion; tests in May 2017 found arsenic levels as high as 3,560 parts per billion in one well. Lead was present in that well, too, at 63.9 parts per billion — four times the federal action level.
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