Earth & Environment

April 27, 2018: Pruitt Attack on Clean Water

Posted on April 27, 2018 at 12:00 AM

EPA is proposing to change the stringent 2015 regulation governing coal ash storage. Coal ash is the residue left from burning coal. Coal-fired power plants typically mix coal ash with water and store the slurry in holding ponds. Coal ash contains concentrated toxins such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. When the storage ponds leak or fail, this poisonous sludge enters groundwater and nearby streams and rivers that often provide our drinking water. There have been two catastrophic releases of coal ash slurry, one in Tennessee in 2008 and one in North Carolina in 2014, as well as many smaller spills and leaks, leading to the enactment of strict safety requirements in the 2015 regulation.

In the name of saving money and of “flexibility,” the EPA wants to pass off much of its responsibility and clout for enforcing coal ash safety to state officials, and in the case of minor leaks or spills, to owners or operators of these facilities. Under the proposal, state officials would not be required to use professional engineers to certify compliance. There are hundreds of holding ponds across the US, many of them still unlined and/or secured by earthen dams. The Tennessee disaster was triggered by the collapse of an earthen dam after an unusually heavy rainfall. Pruitt denies the reality of climate change, but new weather patterns bringing heavy rains and flash floods are an increasing reality. These bring further risks of toxic slurry entering our water supplies. The Flint, Michigan, water scandal shows that state officials cannot be trusted to protect us from poisons contaminating our water supplies.

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