Report Unveils Greater Threat to Drinking Water from Coal Ash

Now nearly 140 coal ash sites have proven water pollution problems

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Knowledge is king, and now we know more about the extent of damage coal ash sites across the country are causing to our drinking water. A new report issued today by Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project and  Sierra Club offers data that documents water contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals at 39 coal ash dumps in 21 states. The report released today builds on a similar report released in February by Earthjustice and EIP that found an additional 31 coal ash dump sites. Combined with the 67 sites the EPA already knows have contaminated water supplies, the total number of documented coal ash dumps that have contaminated water supplies climbs to 137 sites in 34 states.

The timing couldn’t be better. Next Monday kicks off the first of seven public hearings the EPA is holding through September across the country on its proposal to regulate coal ash. The report released today sends a clear message: coal ash sites contaminate water supplies with arsenic and other dangerous heavy metals and we need federally enforceable safeguards to protect against this toxic threat.

The report authors dug through gigabytes of water quality monitoring data from state agencies across the country to pull together today’s findings. The findings are unnerving:

  • As many as 27 of the 39 sites where groundwater is contaminated may be illegal dumps according to federal law;
  • Most damaged sites are still active and virtually all show recent evidence of contamination;
  • In several cases, coal ash dump sites are leaking their toxic cargo into rivers just upstream from the intakes for public water systems;
  • At least 18 of the 39 contaminated sites are located within five miles of a public groundwater well that could potentially be affected by toxic pollutants from these dump sites;
  • Many states require no groundwater monitoring at all;
  • State agencies have not required polluters to clean up even as contamination increases.

Check out the report for yourself (but be careful, this PDF is a 6Mb file), and take a few moments to tell EPA to set federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash.

Jared was the head coach of Earthjustice's advocacy campaign team from 2004 to 2014.

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.