Aug 26, 2010

Study: Coal Ash Water Contamination ‘Much Worse’ Than Previously Estimated

Thirty-nine additional toxic sites identified in 21 states

Days before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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 new study has identified 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 that state governments are not adequately monitoring the coal combustion waste (CCW) disposal sites and that the EPA 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. 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 EPA bring the total number of known toxic contamination sites from coal ash pollution to 137 in 34 states. Together, the independent reports and EPA'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 groups said.

The first public hearing on the pending EPA coal ash rule is set for Aug. 30, 2010, in Arlington, Va.

"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,” said Jeff Stant, director, Coal Combustion Waste Initiative, Environmental Integrity Project. “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.”