Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Green Groups Worry New Coal Ash Rule Could Harm Human Health

Health + Wellness
Coal CEO Bob Murray pushed for looser coal ash rules similar to those put in place last week by the EPA. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Environmental groups expressed concerns over the health impacts of a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to relax regulations on coal ash, CNN reported Saturday.


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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less