This article discusses the problem with coal ash. New reports provide an unprecedented look at contaminants leaking from coal ash ponds and landfills. But the chasm between information and environmental protection may deepen thanks to a proposed Trump administration rollback.
In tests conducted in late 2017, one in three coal-fired power plants nationwide detected “statistically significant” amounts of contaminants, including harmful chemicals like arsenic, in the groundwater around their facilities.
This information, which utility companies had to post on their websites in March, became public for the first time under an Obama-era environmental rule regulating coal ash, the waste generated from burning coal.
Mixed with water and stored in ponds and landfills at nearly 300 facilities across the country, coal ash has been found to contain carcinogens and toxins like mercury and lead. For decades, people living near coal-fired plants have feared the ash was seeping into the ground and contaminating their drinking water.
But now, just as residents are getting their first indication of whether neighboring plants might pose a threat, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is advancing a proposal to amend the rule, giving states the authority to lessen consequences and weaken requirements for polluting power plants.