A new analysis by environmental groups released on Monday found that waste ash from hundreds of coal-fired power plants has contaminated groundwater in 39 states with toxic substances like arsenic (linked to cancer), lithium (linked to neurological damage), and mercury. That report was based on data the plants reported to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Although the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice found more than a dozen instances in which those substances have reached drinking water supplies, the full extent of the effect on our drinking water is unknown because private sources of drinking water are not tested.1 (The toxins leach into our groundwater because the ponds and landfills where the coal ash is stored are frequently unlined.)
This essentially means that almost all our coal plants are poisoning all our water.
“The report is based on groundwater monitoring data from more than 4,600 wells. It compared measured levels to drinking water or other standards. Contamination was found in groundwater near 242 of the 265 plants that recently reported data required by the 2015 rule.”1
That means a whopping 91% of U.S. coal-fired power plants are contaminating the water.
Abel Russ, the lead author of the report and an attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, told The Guardian, “The pollution is basically everywhere you look.”2 It’s time to get angry folks. And get a water filter, too. (Russ added that the ponds aren’t regulated or monitored and little is known about them.)
In 2018 a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to re-evaluate the Obama-era rule because it didn’t go far enough (for instance, coal ash ponds are not required to be lined) however, in July the current administration made regulations even weaker.
And keep in mind that these numbers far understate the contamination because the data is only available on coal ash sites that are actively in use.