Coal Ash Continues to Leak Into Groundwater

EPA taking comments on options to handle coal ash

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Hurry up! Friday is the deadline for submitting comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its proposal to regulate coal ash, including one option that would keep things as they are (not good).

And if the December 2008 TVA coal ash disaster isn’t reason enough to regulate this substance as a hazardous waste, here are some stories that may change your mind.

The first piece describes the burden that residents in Beaver County, Pennsylvania suffer as a result of living in the midst of the Little Blue Run industrial pond. The pond stretches 1,000 acres from Pennsylvania all the way into West Virginia. While FirstEnergy (owner of the pond) disputes any contamination of drinking water as a result of the leaking impoundment, several residents say otherwise. Tests of their drinking water found that there were high amounts of arsenic, as well as high levels of thallium, manganese, iron and aluminum.

John Reed owns a home just 1,000 yards away from the pond and spent years fixing it. Now, it sits abandoned because of the contaminated water. His mother, Barbara Reed, says: “We all drank this water. And we had no idea we were being poisoned.”

One resident in Lawrenceville, West Virginia said his water started stinking like rotten eggs and his yard contains coal ash seepage. A representative of FirstEnergy said that seepage could be related to their impoundment and “we have a plan to try to be a good neighbor.”

In another piece, two groups in Montana are at odds with how to handle coal ash. The industry group (surprise!) favors the option that would regulate coal as a nonhazardous waste. Rosebud Protective Association believes coal ash must be regulated as hazardous to protect the public and ground water. At issue is that PPL Montana, which has power plants in Colstrip and Corette which send coal ash to containment ponds for permanent storage, is supposed to be working with the Montana department of environment to clean up and control leakage of coal ash into groundwater.

“They have not done that,” the article quotes Clint McRae of the Rosebud association as saying. He adds that the containment ponds continue to leak, contaminating groundwater with sulfate exceeding toxicity for cattle. Which is a reason the Rosebud Protective Association is calling for coal ash to be regulated.

To help people like Clint McRae, please submit your comments in support of regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste. We’ve got approximately 30,000 comments – and can use as many as we can get.


Raviya was a press secretary at Earthjustice in the Washington, D.C. office from 2008 to 2014, working on issues including federal rulemakings, energy efficiency laws and coal ash pollution.

Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C., office works at the federal level to prevent air and water pollution, combat climate change, and protect natural areas. We also work with communities in the Mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere to address severe local environmental health problems, including exposures to dangerous air contaminants in toxic hot spots, sewage backups and overflows, chemical disasters, and contamination of drinking water. The D.C. office has been in operation since 1978.