A new study
The first national study of coal ash pollution was released yesterday and found 90% of the regulated coal ash repositories are leaking (including 30 of them in the Ohio Valley). The study was done by the Environmental Integrity Project and “used industry data that became available to the public for the first time in 2018 because of requirements in federal coal ash regulations issued in 2015.”
Yesterday’s West Virginia Public Broadcasting story on the report featured coal ash sites near the Pleasants Power Station:
In some cases, the data showed levels of pollutants many times higher than the federal drinking water standards. For example, coal ash sites near West Virginia's Pleasants Power Station had levels of the neurotoxin arsenic 16 times what the EPA deems safe. The radioactive and cancer-causing pollutant radium was found at levels six times higher than acceptable.
(Note – the Pleasants Power Station was scheduled to close in January but a settlement will keep it open until 2022.)
Won’t some of these coal power plants be closing soon?
The Trump administration is doing what it can to keep them open but the problem will not simply solve itself even if the power plants close. As environmental writer Ken Silverstein wrote in yesterday’s Forbes:
Even though coal plants are retiring at a record pace, their residual impact remains — the existence of coal ash impoundments and the potential that their remnants could leach into groundwater supplies. Data provided by the utility companies show a risk. That potential danger needs to be addressed at a federal level to give residents peace-of-mind, although the Trump administration and its EPA chief seem to be turning blind eye to the scare.
Should we write to our local congressman, Republican David McKinley, about this?
Unless McKinley has changed his mind and not told anyone, it may be a waste of time. Here is what the congressman bragged about on his congressional website in 2014:
Earlier this week, the American Coal Ash Association presented me with the Champion of Coal Ash Award for working to protect and promote the use of coal ash and stop the EPA from labeling it as a hazardous material.
Arsenic? Radium? Why would anyone consider coal ash a hazardous material?