Climate Action

New analysis finds most US coal plants contaminating groundwater

New analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project has found that most US coal plants are contaminating groundwater with toxins.

  • 05 March 2019
  • Rachel Cooper

New analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project has found that most US coal plants are contaminating groundwater with toxins.

An examination has found that 91 per cent of coal-fired power plants with monitoring data are contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of toxic pollutants.

Abel Russ, the lead author of the report and attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), said: “At a time when the Trump EPA – now being run by a former coal lobbyist – is trying to roll back federal regulations on coal ash, these new data provide convincing evidence that we should be moving in the opposite direction: toward stronger protections for human health and the environment.”

The report found that the groundwater near 242 and 265 power plants with monitoring data contained unsafe levels of pollutants including arsenic, which is associated neurological damage among other pollutants.

The data, which only became active in 2018 because of regulation requirements, came from over 4,600 groundwater monitoring wells located around 265 coal plants, accounting for only three quarters of coal plants in the U.S. The rest of the plants did not have to comply with the regulation requirements, either because they closed their ash dumps before 2015, or because they were eligible for an extension.

The report highlights the need for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to change this process to esnure the protection of public health and the environment. They recommend that the EPA regulates all coal ash dumps, not just the active ones.

Lisa Evans, Senior Counsel with Earthjustice, said: “This is a wake-up call for the nation. Using industry’s own data, our report proves that coal plants are poisoning groundwater nearly everywhere they operate. The Trump Administration insists on hurting communities across the U.S. by gutting federal protections. They are making a dire situation much worse.”

Read the full report here.

Photograph: J Henry Fair/South Wings