Jul 03, 2019

Pollution & Priorities

Sara Myers headshot
Sara Myers, associate editor of iWWD.

Like many months in the year, these past have been especially busy for the U.S. EPA. The issue of coal ash ponds have come up yet again, and EPA added more hazardous waste sites to the Superfund Program’s National Priorities List (NPL).

At the Ameren Labadie Energy Center in Missouri, coal ash was seeping into groundwater that spread for miles through aquifers. Environmental nonprofits reported 91% of coal-fired power plants have contaminated groundwater beneath them.

In 2008, the largest industrial spill in U.S. history occurred in Kingston, Tenn. More than 5 million cu yards of coal ash spilled into the Emory River. According to The Missourian, a Missouri newspaper reporting on coal ash ponds, this was the first major coal ash spill in the U.S. 

Environmental groups, including the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, collected data from 265 coal plants, 550 individual coal ponds or landfills, and 4,600 groundwater monitoring wells in the U.S. The report found groundwater at 52% of coal plants contains unsafe levels of arsenic, and groundwater at 69% of coal plants contains unsafe levels of lithium.

In addition to pollution issues, more sites were added to the NPL list this May such as the Sporlan Valve Plant #1 in Washington, Mo. According to EPA, the site was developed as a refrigeration valve manufacturing facility in 1939. At the site, trichloroethylene (TCE) was used as a degreaser and an industrial solvent. TCE contaminated soil and groundwater beneath the facility, and is the primary contaminant of conern at the site. It is linked to several cancers including leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and breast cancer.

The NPL is made up of sites with some of the nation’s uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. According to EPA, the list primarily serves as a way to prioritize EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Sites on the NPL only are sites eligible to receive funding for long-term cleanup.

For more news on groundwater pollution and other hazardous waste sites, visit www.iwwdmag.com for the latest news coverage in the industrial water industry.

About the author

Sara Myers is associate editor of iWWD. Myers can be reached at [email protected] 

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