Lisa Evans, Senior Administrative Counsel, Earthjustice: “Emergency plans are just pro forma for dams, which ordinarily hold water. So it’s a no-brainer that contingency or emergency plans should be necessary for dams that are impounding toxic waste. And yet, it was only until last week the public could see these plans, and only until last month that the EPA actually required them.”
What's at Stake
Earthjustice is suing the federal government to adopt federal protections for coal ash, which contains toxic chemicals like arsenic, mercury and lead, is dumped into unlined and unmonitored pits and landfills every day, threatening drinking water supplies, aquatic life and public health.
A few years ago, the American public had never heard of coal ash. But on December 22, 2008, one billion gallons of the toxic sludge erupted from a holding pond in Tennessee and buried local homes, shorefront and miles of river —and coal ash burst onto the national stage.
Coal ash is the toxic waste that remains after coal is burned—it’s loaded with dangerous heavy metals that can cause cancer, reproductive harm and other diseases. Despite the national attention after the Tennessee disaster and the presence of more than a thousand other unsafe dump sites across the country, the EPA has scarcely lifted a finger to protect the American public from this danger.
On behalf of 10 public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes, Earthjustice sued the federal government to adopt coal ash protections.
Lisa Evans, Senior Administrative Counsel, Earthjustice: “Coal ash is a toxic substance that if handled incorrectly can take human lives, can make people sick, can ruin the environment, lakes, rivers, streams, permanently.”