the second largest industrial waste stream in the u.s. is less regulated than your household trash
Coal-fired power plants generate over 140 million tons of toxic coal ash every year – that’s enough to fill 426,780 Olympic swimming pools! Coal ash is the hazardous waste left over when coal is burned for electricity. It contains a toxic mix of arsenic, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium and other heavy metals that are known to cause cancer and other health problems. When dumped in unlined ponds or mines, these toxic metals can leach into streams and drinking water.
Coal ash is disposed of near sources of drinking water and our homes – often unbeknownst to the community. Three days before Christmas in 2008, a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal ash dam broke at the Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, TN, spewing over a billion gallons of wet coal ash into the nearby Clinch and Emory Rivers. This toxic slurry destroyed three homes and severely damaged dozens of others. The Kingston disaster is the largest toxic spill in U.S. history – 5 times larger than the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. While the Kingston spill was devastating, it is not an isolated incident – since 2002, millions of gallons of spilled or leaking toxic slurry have contaminated streams and groundwater in states across the country.
Despite the toxic nature of coal ash and numerous cases of contamination, there are currently NO federal standards to ensure this industrial waste product is disposed of safely. State laws governing disposal are weak or non-existent. Most states do not even require the most basic safeguards such as pond liners or groundwater monitoring to protect public health and the environment.
Do you think toxic coal ash should be less regulated than what’s in your trash bin? We don’t either.
That’s why Clean Water Action is working to ensure that the Obama Administration finalizes new policies that will require minimum safeguards to protect public health and the environment from toxic coal ash.