Coal Ash Contamination Report

March 14, 2019

The National Coal and Ash Report has been released by the Environmental Integrity Project

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has released a report on U.S. states with coal ash contamination in groundwater and Illinois has made the list.

Illinois did not make the reports top 10 "sites with the worst contamination in the country" but was highlighted twice. According to the report, the EIP found enough data to include Illinois into their report of coal ash contamination. For example, the town Waukegan was listed as a lower-ranked site that "may have severe contamination."

“Groundwater at NRG’s Waukegan Station in Waukegan, Illinois has very high levels of arsenic, boron, and other pollutants, but the contamination is greatest in wells that are upgradient of the site’s two regulated coal ash ponds,” the report states. “The groundwater is likely being affected by a large, unregulated coal ash landfill that is also upgradient of the ash ponds. But the Waukegan site ranks low in our list because the wells downgradient of the regulated ash ponds tend to show lower levels of contamination than the upgradient wells.”

The National Coal and Ash Report report lists what in coal and how it can be harmful to animals, the environment, and people. According to the report, some of the contamination includes toxic chemicals like arsenic, carcinogens, radium, and metals that can impair children’s developing brains, and chemicals that are toxic to aquatic life. The report also goes on to explain the water under almost every coal plant is contaminated.

The report states that 91% of coal plants have unsafe levels of one or more coal ash constituents in groundwater, even after we set aside contamination that may naturally occurring or coming from other sources.

According to EIP, the groundwater at a majority of coal plants (52%) has unsafe levels of arsenic. Arsenic is also a neurotoxin, and can impair the brains of developing children.

The report also says the majority of coal plants (60%) have unsafe levels of lithium.

The contamination at a given site typically involves multiple chemicals. The majority of coal plants have unsafe levels of at least four toxic constituents of coal ash.

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