The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Green Groups Worry New Coal Ash Rule Could Harm Human Health
Coal ash contains toxic metals like arsenic, lead and mercury and is often left in ponds where it has been known to contaminate groundwater.
The rule change gives states greater authority over regulating one of the nation's biggest sources of industrial waste and allows companies to forgo annual groundwater tests if they can prove their coal ash is not polluting nearby aquifers.
"These rules will allow yet more tons of coal ash, containing toxics like arsenic and mercury, to be dumped into unlined leaking pits sitting in groundwater and next to rivers, lakes and drinking water reservoirs," Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Frank Holleman told CNN.
The new rule was signed July 18 and was the first rule signed by new acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler, Reuters reported.
"Our actions mark a significant departure from the one-size-fits-all policies of the past and save tens of millions of dollars in regulatory costs," Wheeler said, according to Reuters.
Revisions to the Obama-era coal ash regulations put in place in 2015 were sought by coal CEO Bob Murray, who Wheeler used to lobby for.
In March 2017, Wheeler helped organize and was present at a meeting between Murray and Energy Sec. Rick Perry in which Murray presented a plan to "assist in the survival of our Country's coal industry" which included giving states more control over coal ash disposal, CNN reported.
"It is now apparently the goal of EPA to save industry money by allowing them to continue to dump toxic waste into leaking pits, which is exactly what the new rule accomplishes," Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans told CNN.
The obama-era coal ash regulations were written following two coal ash spills.
In 2008, a dam at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston plant broke and released a billion gallons of coal ash into the Clinch River, covering 300 acres with sludge and contaminating fish with arsenic and selenium for months afterword.
In 2014, a pipe at Duke Energy's Dan River steam station leaked 39,000 tons of coal ash into North Carolina waterways, extending 70 miles and leading to mercury levels in fish so high that authorities still recommend against eating them.
But even in the absence of a single disaster, coal ash can have devastating effects on human health.
Tracey Brown Edwards, who grew up next to Duke Energy's Belews Creek Steam Station in Walnut Cove, North Carolina which had a coal ash pond next to a neighborhood lake, told CNN that in the five homes on her block, four had experienced cancer in the family.
"There's been a lot of young people with cancer, certain kinds of cancers, brain cancer, stomach cancers, breast cancer," she said.
Doctors say they cannot confirm if the cancer is caused by coal ash, but they also cannot exclude it as a possibility, CNN reported.
- With EPA rule change, worries linger for those near coal ash ponds ... ›
- Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives | Earthjustice ›
- Earthjustice: Environmental Law: Because the Earth Needs a Good ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jared Kaufman
Eating a better diet has been linked with lower levels of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. But unfortunately 821 million people — about 1 in 9 worldwide — face hunger, and roughly 2 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese, according to the U.N. World Health Organization. In addition, food insecurity is associated with even higher health care costs in the U.S., particularly among older people. To help direct worldwide focus toward solving these issues, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals call for the elimination of hunger, food insecurity and undernutrition by 2030.
mevans / E+ / Getty Images
Calls for Radical Climate Action Grow Louder as NOAA Reports Last Month Was Hottest June Ever Recorded
By Jessica Corbett
As meteorologists warned Thursday that temperatures above 100°F are expected to impact two-thirds of the country this weekend, U.S. government scientists revealed that last month was the hottest June ever recorded — bolstering calls for radical global action on the climate emergency.
By John R. Platt
For years now conservationists have warned that many of Madagascar's iconic lemur species face the risk of extinction due to rampant deforestation, the illegal pet trade and the emerging market for the primates' meat.
Yes, people eat lemurs, and the reasons they do aren't exactly what we might expect.