Where are Coal Ash Dump Sites?

Use this map to understand where coal ash might be stored near you and how a given site may be impacted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s expansion of the federal Coal Ash Rule.

This map displays power plant sites across the country with coal ash dump sites.

On April 25, 2024, the EPA issued a new rule that will force power plants to finally clean up their toxic coal ash. After years of litigation and grassroots activism, the EPA extended federal monitoring and cleanup requirements to hundreds of previously excluded older coal ash landfills and ponds that have been leaking toxic pollution into groundwater.

The rule addresses gaps in the 2015 Coal Ash Rule that left half of coal ash unregulated and allowed coal plants to avoid cleaning up toxic coal ash across the country. Based on analysis of industry data provided to the EPA, Earthjustice found evidence of previously exempted historic dumps at 320 coal plants in 41 states.

Coal ash is disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color.

Coal Ash Analysis by State

Learn about groundwater contamination from coal ash in 31 states and Puerto Rico.

The EPA addressed the failure of the 2015 Coal Ash Rule to regulate coal ash stored in old ‚Äėlegacy‚Äô ponds and landfills. At many of those sites, EPA determined that coal ash has contaminated groundwater. Industry often blamed pollution from regulated dumps on nearby unregulated dumps, a sleight of hand that allowed them to avoid cleanup responsibility.

Legacy coal ash dump sites displayed in this map were identified via analysis of EPA datasets used in 2007 and 2014 coal ash risk assessments (Human and Ecological Risk Assessment of Coal Combustion Residuals). These EPA datasets rely on industry-reported data. Ash may have been excavated from some of these historic dump sites since then. Earthjustice expects that this analysis underestimates the number of legacy dump sites, given that it likely does not include plants that stopped burning coal long before EPA conducted the 2007 and 2014 risk assessments. Even if coal ash is fully or partially excavated, contamination at the site may remain, and most sites are not monitored or fully remediated.

Detailed information on regulated coal ash sites is also available.

What is Coal Ash?

For decades, utilities disposed of coal ash ‚Äď the hazardous substance left after burning coal for energy ‚Äď by dumping it in unlined ponds and landfills.

Coal ash contains hazardous pollutants including arsenic, boron, cobalt, chromium, lead, lithium, mercury, molybdenum, radium, selenium, and other heavy metals, which have been linked to cancer, heart and thyroid disease, reproductive failure, and neurological harm.

Industry’s own data indicate that across the country 91% of coal plants are currently polluting groundwater above federal health standards with toxic pollutants.

Coal ash remains one of our nation’s largest toxic industrial waste streams. U.S. coal plants continue to produce approximately 75 million tons every year.

EPA must move quickly to stop the flow of toxic releases from hundreds of leaking dumps and require effective cleanups before communities are irreparably harmed.

The companies that profited from burning coal for decades must not be allowed to walk away from dealing with the hundreds of coal ash dumps leaking toxic waste into groundwater.

What You Can Do

We must keep up the momentum and urge the EPA to move swiftly to enforce its rule and identify and hold power plants accountable that have evaded and delayed the cleanup of toxic coal ash. The EPA must finalize a federal permitting program for coal ash dumps to ensure proper oversight of clean up.

Earthjustice fights in the courts for a long-term solution to the toxic menace of coal ash. And we act on behalf of dozens of clients and over 100 coalition partners to defeat legislative attempts to subvert federally enforceable safeguards of coal ash.

Earthjustice’s Clean Energy Program uses the power of the law and the strength of partnership to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy.