Tell EPA to Regulate Hazardous Coal Ash
Coal ash, the waste remaining after coal is burned, contains some of the most dangerous toxics on the planet — and it’s leaching, leaking and spilling out of disposal sites across the nation.
Alaska has six coal-fired power plants located between Fairbanks and Healy. Coal ash from these facilities is either dumped in landfills or reused, sometimes as fill in public spaces, university grounds, and residential neighborhoods. Improper storage and reuse of coal ash may expose Alaskans to toxic chemicals in this dangerous byproduct of burning coal. Exposure can occur by touching reused material, inhaling particulates, drinking contaminated water, or consuming contaminated fish or other foods.
Coal ash toxins can cause cancer, damage the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems, and contaminate surface water and drinking water. In fact, living near a coal ash storage pond was found to be significantly more dangerous than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, according to a risk assessment done by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The writing is on the wall, the floor, the ceiling, everywhere… Arsenic, selenium and other pollutants from coal ash pose a toxic threat to drinking water, fish and wildlife populations, and our health.”
– Lisa Evans, Earthjustice
Protecting Our Communities
Despite these risks, coal ash disposal is not yet regulated by the federal government, and the current loose patchwork of state regulations is inadequate to protect our health. The EPA is now considering two possible alternatives for federal regulation of coal ash:
The first option, known as “Subtitle C,” would enact strong, federally enforceable safeguards that guarantee coal ash will not pollute our drinking water, our rivers, our streams, our wildlife and our communities. It would also phase out dangerous wet disposal of coal ash, like the storage pond that burst in Tennessee in 2008, flooding a river valley with a billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge. This option is overwhelmingly more protective of human health and the environment.
The second option, “Subtitle D,” would set guidelines for coal ash disposal, but allow states to opt out of them. Storage sites not following the optional guidelines could be labeled as “open dumps” — and then citizens would have to file suit against utility companies in order to enforce the legal prohibitions against open dumps. Talk about getting it backwards!
Please email the EPA with a clear message: Protection from toxic coal ash requires Subtitle C’s strong regulations and mandatory compliance. When it comes to arsenic, mercury, lead, uranium and other toxic substances in coal ash, we must prevent toxic contamination — not try to mop it up after it happens.
The deadline for submitting comments is November 19, 2010.
Thank you for speaking out about this pervasive but little-known risk to health!
- Download ACAT’s fact sheet on the health impacts of coal ash
- See suggestions for filing effective comments with the EPA from Physicians for Social Responsibility.
For more information, please contact 907-222-7714.