Coal ash leaching into water in North Carolina
Last week we announced our intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to force the release of long-awaited public health safeguards against toxic coal ash. Here is just another example of why states aren’t doing an adequate job keeping this toxic muck out of our drinking water. This Charlotte Observer article reports on elevated levels of coal ash metals in groundwater at all 14 coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.
According to the article, “sulfate, dissolved solids and chromium were found at seven plants. Boron was found at six, arsenic at three, and selenium, thallium and antimony at two. Chloride and nickel were each detected at one plant.”
(I know the answer to this question) Who would want any of these toxic chemicals in their drinking water?
The plants are owned by Duke Energy and Progress Energy, which tested ash ponds several years ago and found tainted groundwater. The new report is the result of the most recent round of testing. Because of the latest testing, “we see enough to make us continue to investigate and to continue that discussion," Progress spokesman Scott Sutton is quoted saying.
“Investigate” and “continue that discussion”? But what about making sure coal ash doesn’t leak into groundwater? What prescription do they have for that? Meanwhile, at one North Carolina power plant, the arsenic level in the groundwater has risen to over 65 times the federal drinking water standard.
And if that weren’t enough, the Southern Environmental Law Center listed the Catawba-Waterwee River (which provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents in North and South Carolina) as one of the most endangered places in the country. The river faces threats from Duke Energy toxic coal ash ponds.
So exactly what are North Carolina officials doing about these threats? Not much.Which may be why 33 North Carolina elected leaders wrote a congressional letter to Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) to vehemently oppose S.1751 legislation which would, among many things, prevent the EPA from ever regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste.
In the letter, signed by three North Carolina senators and 30 state representatives, the officials call on Sen. Hagan to oppose the bill because it puts the state further at risk. The letter reads:“to protect North Carolina citizens, coal ash must be subject to reasonable national disposal standards that protect human health and the environment.” The letter continues that the state enacted SB 781, which prevents any state regulations stronger than federal regulations, making it extremely difficult to protect the public from this toxic waste. They also write that S.1751 would hurt recycling, cost North Carolina jobs, and ignore the more than 450,000 public comments calling for a comprehensive health protection from coal ash. It concludes:
In sum, S.1751 ignores neutral economic assessments and the best available science, compromises public health and safety, and undermines the public rulemaking process that engaged nearly half a million Americans.
Will another year pass where states and Americans wait for a health standard we should have had years ago? How many more coal ash disasters and drinking water contamination incidents will it take?