May 3, 2023
Toxic Coal Ash in Ohio: Addressing Coal Plants’ Hazardous Legacy
For decades, utilities disposed of coal ash — the hazardous substance left after burning coal for energy — by dumping it in unlined ponds and landfills. Ohio has more than 67 coal ash dumpsites.
Ohio is one of the nation’s top coal ash-generating states, ranking third in ash production in 2020.
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 70 million tons every year.
Despite EPA’s 2015 Coal Ash Rule, which created the first-ever safeguards for coal ash disposal, many coal ash dumps remain unregulated due to sweeping exemptions for legacy coal ash ponds and inactive landfills.
The exempted coal ash dumps are sited disproportionately in low-income communities and communities of color. The EPA issued a proposed rule to address most of these exemptions on May 17, 2023.
The magnitude of harm from recklessly dumped toxic coal ash requires decisive action from federal and state regulators.
- Utilities must be required to comply with the law and immediately clean up their pollution.
- EPA and states must make enforcement a priority and act quickly to ensure that utilities leave communities with sites that benefit rather than harm their health, environment, and economic status.
- EPA must swiftly strengthen the Coal Ash Rule to address the many legacy ponds and inactive landfills that are unregulated, and to prohibit coal ash used as fill unless protective measures are put in place, to ensure all Ohio communities are protected from coal ash pollution.
37 Regulated Coal Ash Disposal Sites in Ohio that Industry Acknowledges are Federally Regulated*
Ohio utilities operate 37 federally regulated coal ash ponds and landfills containing more than 172 million cubic yards of toxic waste.
Coal ash has caused significant groundwater contamination at all of Ohio’s regulated dumpsites. In fact, the majority of the Ohio plants are in the top 100 contaminated ash sites in the nation.
Ohio plants have failed to initiate any plant-wide cleanup to restore water resources despite the legal requirement to do so.
* First Energy’s Bay Shore Plant, located in Oregon, OH, and Commercial Liability Partners’ Walter Beckjord plant in New Richmond, OH, operate inactive coal ash ponds at the facility according to historical reporting to EPA, but the owners have not complied with the CCR rule’s requirements that apply to these ponds, including reporting, groundwater monitoring, closure, and corrective action.
|Cardinal||Brilliant||AEP||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill (>20M CY)||Arsenic (x4), Boron (x3), Lithium (x11), Molybdenum (x9), Sulfate (x3)|
|Conesville||Conesville||AEP||1 unlined pond, 1 landfill (>4.7M CY)||Arsenic (x15), Beryllium (x4), Boron (x7), Cobalt (x7), Fluoride (x2), Lithium (x4), Molybdenum (x15), Radium 226+228 (x2)|
|Gavin||Cheshire||Gavin Power, LLC||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill ( >87 M CY)||Arsenic (x3), Boron (x2), Cobalt (x23), Fluoride (x2), Lead (x2), Lithium (x17), Molybdenum (x6)|
|JM Stuart Station||Aberdeen||Kingfisher Development||5 unlined ponds, 3 landfills (25M CY)||Arsenic (x11), Barium (x1), Boron (x9), Cobalt (x4), Lithium (x4), Molybdenum (x26), Radium 226+228 (x2), Selenium (x1), Sulfate (x1)|
|Killen||Manchester||AES Ohio Gen||3 unlined ponds (>14.5 M CY)||Boron (x4), Lithium (x19), Molybdenum (x35)|
|Kyger Creek||Cheshire||Ohio Valley Electric||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill ( >8.6M CY)||Arsenic (x11), Barium (x33), Boron (x9), Cobalt (x5), Lithium (x11), Molybdenum (x4), Radium 226+228 (x2), Sulfate (x2)|
|Miami Fort||North Bend||Luminant||2 unlined pond, 1 landfill ( > 4.1M CY)||Arsenic (x11), Barium (x33), Boron (x9), Cobalt (x5), Lithium (x11), Molybdenum (x4), Radium 226+228 (x2), Sulfate (x2)|
|Richmond Mill||Richmond Mill||Richmond Mill, inc||1 landfill (> 3M CY)||Boron (x16), Cobalt (x1), Lithium (x116), Molybdenum (x38), Radium 226+228 (x15), Sulfate (x3)|
|Walter Beckjord||New Richmond||Commercial Liability Partners||4 unlined ponds (Volume unknown)||Not Evaluated|
|WH Sammis||Stratton||Energy Harbor Gen||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill (>3.6 M CY)||Barium (x2), Cobalt (x8)|
|Zimmer||Moscow||Luminant||3 unlined ponds, 1 landfill, (22M CY)||Boron (x3), Lithium (x6), Sulfate (x2)|
All data on groundwater contamination from coal ash derived from the utilities’ publicly accessible CCR Compliance Data and Information websites, and exceedances were calculated by Environmental Integrity Project.
For more information on regulated coal ash sites in Ohio, see Mapping the Coal Ash Contamination.
30 Unregulated Coal Ash Legacy Ponds and Inactive Landfills in Ohio (ash dumps exempted from the 2015 Coal Ash Rule)
In addition, Ohio hosts at least 30 unregulated inactive coal ash landfills and legacy ponds that escape federal regulation. The exact number remains unknown because utilities are not required to report these sites.
These dumps are almost certainly contaminating water and threatening health and the environment; however, monitoring data are not currently available for most unregulated sites.
As we anticipate EPA’s proposed rule on legacy ponds and unregulated landfills in May 2023, a concern remains that the agency will not address coal ash that was dumped off site or used as fill.
|Avon Lake||Avon Lake||GenOn Power Midwest||2||1||Unknown- no data|
|Conesville||Conesville||AEP||0||1||Yes (EPA damage case)|
|Ashtabula||Ashtabula||First Energy||1||0||Unknown- no data|
|Bay Shore||Oregon||First Energy||0||1||Unknown- no data|
|Eastlake||Willoughby||First Energy||1||1||Unknown- no data|
|Lake Shore||Cleveland||First Energy||1||0||Unknown- no data|
|R.E. Burger||Shadyside||First Energy||2||1||Unknown- no data|
|Gavin||Cheshire||Gavin Power, LLC||0||1||Yes (EPA damage case)|
|Miami Fort||North Bend||Luminant||0||1||Yes (Industry data)|
|Muskingum River||Beverly||Ohio Power Co||4||1||Yes (EPA damage case)|
|Niles||Niles||GenOn Power Midwest||4||0||Unknown – no data|
|OH Hutchings||Miamisburg||Dayton Power & Light||3||0||Unknown – no data|
|Picway||Lockbourne||Columbus Southern||1||0||Unknown – no data|
|Richard Gorsuch||Marietta||American Muni Power||0||1||Unknown – no data|
|Walter Beckjord||New Richmond||Commercial Liability Partners||0||2||Yes (EPA damage case)|
These data were developed by using EPA datasets relied upon in their 2007 and 2014 CCR risk assessments (Human and Ecological Risk Assessment of Coal Combustion Residuals) and comparing those datasets to the universe of regulated units.
“EPA damage case” denotes a site where US EPA has found documented groundwater contamination from coal ash.
For More Information
Christine Santillana, Legislative Counsel, Earthjustice, email@example.com
Lisa Evans, Senior Counsel, Earthjustice, firstname.lastname@example.org.
More on Coal Ash in Ohio
- Poisonous Coverup: The Widespread Failure of the Power Industry to Clean Up Coal Ash Dumps (November 3, 2022)
- Tr-Ash Talk: Low-Income and Communities of Color Breathe More Dirty Air (December 4, 2012)
- Tr-Ash Talk: Living With Lies and Coal Ash (May 17, 2012)
Coal Ash in States, Territories, Regions
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.