Can Coal Ever Be Clean?
Despite the insistence of multi-billion dollar ad campaigns from the coal industry, “clean coal” simply does not exist.
Even when scrubbers are installed to filter air pollution from coal-fired power plants, the mercury, selenium, and other toxic heavy metals released by coal combustion have to go somewhere. Sadly, too much pollution is ending up in America’s rivers and groundwater.
This week, the New York Times’ excellent series "Toxic Waters" takes a look at the dangers of shifting coal pollution from air to water.
The story focuses on Allegheny Energy’s Hatfield’s Ferry plant in Masontown, PA.
After years of violating permitted air emissions limits, Allegheny Energy finally installed scrubbers to reduce air pollution at the Hatfield’s Ferry plant. Unfortunately, contaminated wastewater from the scrubbers now ends up the Monongahela River, the drinking water source for more than 90,000 people.
This March, Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen filed papers opposing the water permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
“It’s really important to set a precedent that tells power plants that they need to genuinely clean up pollution, rather than just shift it from the air to the water,” Dillen told The Times.
The Environmental Protection Agency has vowed to crack down but is not planning to set critically needed national standards for several years. In the meantime, coal-fired power plants around the country are escaping compliance with the Clean Water Act—putting communities and waterways at risk.