Forty-Nine Coal Plants Acknowledge Groundwater Contamination
At least 49 power plants have acknowledged groundwater contamination at levels that exceed federal or state standards, according to data submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). At least 28 of those have come to light only recently, including five in West Virginia, three in Iowa, North Carolina, and Texas, and two each in Colorado and South Carolina (see analysis).
Plants reported exceeding federal or state groundwater standards for at least multiple pollutants that are subject to Safe Drinking Water Act or federal Health Advisory standards, including:
- Arsenic (a potent carcinogen) at no fewer than 22 plants
- Manganese (a metal that can damage the nervous system in high concentrations) at 22
- Boron (a pollutant that can cause damage to the stomach, intestines, liver, kidney and brain when ingested in large amounts) at 12
- Selenium (a toxic pollutant that causes adverse health effects at high exposures) at 13
- Cadmium (a toxic pollutant that can damage the kidneys, lungs, and bones) at 10
Standards for some of these pollutants were frequently exceeded at more than one disposal unit on the plant’s site, and at many ash ponds or landfills, the standards were exceeded for multiple pollutants. Specific data about actual concentration levels is not available, because it was not requested by EPA.
The information was originally requested by the EPA Office of Water to help the agency evaluate the potential toxicity of wastewater containing ash or scrubber sludge that may be discharged to rivers or lakes. Forty-two of the 91 coal-fired plants surveyed by EPA either did not respond, had no groundwater monitoring data, reported that available monitoring did not indicate that any standards had been exceeded, or claimed confidentiality. Plants responding to EPA’s survey may be measuring some, but not all, contaminants subject to health-based standards, and lack of uniform monitoring standards for coal ash disposal sites means that methods of detection and measurement vary from state to state.
EIP Director Eric Schaeffer said: “Some of these plants were under the radar, and had never been identified before by EPA or in our earlier reports on ash ponds and landfills. EPA’s Office of Solid Waste is still grinding away on proposed standards for coal ash disposal—more than three years after the TVA spill—but has somehow never found the time to require testing of the groundwater next to coal ash sites, or even to systematically collect the data that is already there. This “see no evil” approach leaves the public at risk, and makes it easier for polluters to duck responsibility for a growing problem.”
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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