Nov 06, 2019

U.S. EPA Weakens Obama-era Toxic Water Pollution Rules

The Trump administration moved to weaken Obama-era regulations aimed at limiting the leaching of toxic pollution into water supplies from the ash of coal burning power plants.

The Trump administration moved to weaken Obama-era regulations aimed at limiting the leaching of toxic pollution into water supplies from the ash of coal burning power plants.

The Trump administration has moved to roll back an Obama-era regulation aimed at limiting the leaching of toxic pollution into water supplies from the ash of coal burning power plants.

The new measures lower pollution limits and extend the deadline for power plants to comply with new technologies until Dec. 31, 2028, which many coal plants are exempt from, reported the New York Times

Coal industry leaders believe this could keep plants open longer, which environmental groups fear will increase the risk of water contamination.

Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. EPA, issued a proposal to relax rules set in 2015 regarding inspection and monitoring protocols at coal plants. These Obama-era rules required plants to install new technology to protect water supplies from contaminants such as arsenic, lead and selenium.

The new wastewater proposal, known as the Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs), would allow significant increases of selenium entering waterways in wastewater that has been used to clean power plants' air filters, reported E&E News. The Trump administration's rule would set a daily maximum limit on selenium at 76 micrograms per liter, which is more than three times the Obama-era limit of 23 micrograms per liter. 

Another proposal will move back a deadline for the disposal of coal ash sludge by eight years. 

“These proposed revisions support the Trump Administration’s commitment to responsible, reasonable regulations by taking a common sense approach, which also protects public health and the environment” said Wheeler in a statement

Officials maintain the coal industry will save more than $175 million annually and produce 100 million pounds fewer discharged pollutants each year, reported the New York Times.

Environmental groups believe the proposal will be harmful to the 6 million people who live within 3 miles of coal-fired power plants, especially poor communities and communities of color. 

The EPA will hold an online only public hearing on the proposed rule on Dec. 19.

Read content about the U.S. EPA’s water quality regulations: 

expand_less