New Report Highlights Extent of Coal-Plant Water Pollution

August 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

The groups also reviewed a red-line copy of the EPA’s proposed coal plant water pollution standards that were sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before the standards were released. The red-line copy shows that OMB caved to industry pressure and took the highly unusual and improper step of writing new, weaker options into the draft rule prepared by the EPA’s expert staff. 

Of the various options outlined in the EPA’s proposed standards, the strongest is “Option 5,” which would eliminate almost all toxic waste dumped into our rivers, streams, lakes and bays, reducing pollution by more than 5 billion pounds a year, and should be the option EPA selects for the final rule. The next strongest option, called “Option 4,” would eliminate ash-contaminated discharges, and apply rigorous treatment requirements for scrubber sludge; however it would only reduce pollution by 3.3 billion pounds a year, 2 billion less than Option 5. These standards should also increase available information on the amount and types of toxics dumped into our water. 

According to the EPA, more than half of all toxic water pollution in the country comes from power plants, making coal-fired power plants the number one source of toxic water pollution in the U.S. The human health impacts from this pollution are serious. The EPA estimates that nearly 140,000 people per year experience increased cancer risk due to arsenic in fish from coal plants, nearly 13,000 children under the age of seven each year have reduced IQs because of lead in fish they eat, and almost 2,000 children are born with lower IQs because of mercury in fish their mothers have eaten.

“Allowing coal polluters to fill our rivers and lakes with this witches brew of toxic chemicals threatens public health and diminishes quality of life for Americans,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance. “The Clean Water Act is one of our nation’s greatest achievements, but 40 years after this critical legislation was passed, the coal industry is still polluting with impunity, thanks to a loophole no other industry has enjoyed.”

“We look out for lead paint when we buy a home and we clear our kids from the room when a mercury thermometer breaks on the ground — so why would we let the coal industry dump millions of pounds of these poisons into our water?” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Doctors and scientists know that exposure to these dangerous metals can lead to birth defects, cancer, and even death. That means the EPA’s new coal plant water pollution standards will not only clean up our water, but it will also save lives.”

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