Clock Is Ticking on Cleaning up Coal Ash

Coal ash is contaminating drinking water supplies in the U.S., and it is only getting worse as the waste stream grows in volume and toxicity. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made it official on June 21, giving the public only a short period to comment on the first-ever federal rule for coal ash disposal at hundreds of dumps and landfills across the country.

The environmental group Earth Justice is trying to get 50,000 emails sent to the EPA telling them to set strong, federally enforceable safeguards against this hazardous waste.

The EPA’s proposed coal ash rule is far from perfect, the group says. Instead of setting a clear direction on cleaning up coal ash, the EPA instead offered two options: one that uses the strongest protections under the law to curb the coal ash threat, and another that maintains the status quo, offering no federally enforceable requirements to clean up the coal ash mess.

A national coalition of more than 250 environmental and public health groups are working together to fight the lobbyists for the coal and power industries who want little or no oversight over coal ash dumping.

“They’ve met with EPA and White House officials and will do everything they can to keep the status quo, which allows them in many states to dump their toxic waste without any concerns for nearby communities,” the group says in press release. “They don’t want to clean up the coal ash mess they’ve made over the last 50 years and will be fighting for more delay, more cutbacks and less protections for our health and environment.”

We need strong, federally enforceable safeguards that guarantee coal ash will not pollute our drinking water, our rivers, our streams, our wildlife and our communities. This hazardous waste has been ignored for far too long, and millions of Americans may be at risk of cancer, developmental problems, organ damage and other health threats.

Urge the EPA to act now! Deadline: Nov. 19, 2010

More Information on Coal Ash:

■ There are currently no federally enforceable regulations for coal ash, and contamination from coal ash dumps and waste ponds is already poisoning drinking water supplies and damaging wildlife such as fish and birds at contaminated sites across the country.

■ The lack of federally enforceable safeguards is exactly what led to the disaster in Tennessee, where in December 2008 a dam holding more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash failed, destroying 300 acres of land, dozens of homes, killed fish and other wildlife, and poisoned the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

■ Living near an unlined coal ash waste pond and drinking water contaminated with arsenic can be more dangerous than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, according to a risk assessment done by the EPA.

■ Coal ash contamination disproportionally impacts the poorest communities.

■ Coal ash is contaminating our drinking water supplies, and it is only getting worse as the waste stream grows in volume and toxicity.

■ People living near unlined coal ash ponds, where water is contaminated by arsenic, have an extremely high risk of cancer, up to 1 in 50. This is 2,000 times greater than EPA’s acceptable cancer risk.

The next EPA public hearings are:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at the Seelbach Hilton Exit EPA500 Fourth Street, Louisville, KY 40202-2518, Phone: (502) 585-3200 | New!Speaker Schedule (PDF) (3 pp, 14K) 10 am to 9 pm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at the Knoxville Marriott Exit EPA 500 Hill Avenue, SE, Knoxville TN, 37915, Phone: (865) 637-1234 9 am to 9 pm.

Each hearing will have a morning, afternoon and evening session, starting at 10:00 a.m. (local time) and ending at 9:00 p.m. or later depending on the number of speakers.

For maps and more information, visit the EPA website.

■ The toxins in coal ash, such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, selenium and others, have been linked to cancer, organ disease, respiratory illness, neurological damage, and reproductive and developmental problems.

■ Coal ash contamination by the bioaccumulative toxin selenium has wiped out entire fish populations and caused long-term ecosystem damage.

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