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Tr-Ash Talk

This week the House will vote on the “Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013” (HR 2218) sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV). The bill ruthlessly guts longstanding public health and environmental protections of the nation’s decades-old statute protecting communities from solid and hazardous waste disposal. This shameless industry giveaway creates a giant loophole for the toxic waste generated by coal-fired power plants.

There is a running joke in my hometown about the glowing green fish and three-headed salamanders in Lake Julian. Nestled in the center of Arden, North Carolina, and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, this lake was once the picturesque centerpiece of the quaint Southern town. But thanks to the pollution from Progress Energy’s nearby coal ash pond, these jokes aren’t far from the truth.

Recent sampling of paths constructed of coal ash near J.L. Wilkinson Elementary School in Middleburg, Florida reveal high levels of vanadium, a hazardous substance linked to cardiovascular disease and nervous system damage. Vanadium levels were up to seven times higher than levels deemed safe for residential soil by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Arsenic-infused drinking water, the risk of cancer, and the fear of being washed away by a flood of toxic sludge are a burden of concern for Americans living near more than 1,300 toxic coal ash dump sites.They have expressed their concerns through numerous letters to Congress, petitions, and more than 450,000 public comments to the Environmental Protect

My favorite aunt became a dean at Michigan State back in the early 1980’s. She was a role model for us all, assuming a level of power and influence that most women—especially African American women—had not been able access at that time. She, like many other students and faculty at the time, enjoyed the campus and resources it provided. But what she didn’t know was that the water that she drank, bathed in and used for cooking and cleaning and cleaning, may have been poisoned by toxic coal ash.

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