I’ve said it a thousand times, but just in case you missed it, there is NO SUCH THING as clean coal.
According to a Duke University-led study, North Carolina rivers and lakes downstream from the settling ponds of coal-fired power plants have dangerously high levels of cadmium, selenium, antimony and thallium. This result is unexpected, since local power plants were retrofitted with scrubbers and other technologies designed to reduce the health threat of coal fired power.
Blocked from drifting into the air, these contaminants have simply found another way into our world, in the solid waste residue and wastewater produced by the facilities. In fact, plants attempting to produce the mythical “clean coal” through the use of scrubbers and other flue gas desulfurization technologies could have greater concentrations of selenium and other contaminants in their wastewater than traditional facilities.
Great, so not only is clean coal a lie, trying to create cleaner coal-burning power plants could actually be more dangerous than just burning it like normal.
The Duke study measured the concentrations of major and trace elements in over 300 samples from coal combustion residue effluents in North Carolina, the heart of coal country. Samples of surface water were taken from lakes and rivers at different downstream and upstream points and pore water extracted from lake sediments. According to Waterkeeper Alliance:
The study results showed that the French Broad River and Mountain Island Lake have the highest levels of arsenic contamination of all the sites studied. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standard for arsenic is 10 µg/L. The Duke University study found 44.5 µg/L of arsenic at the Asheville coal-fired power plant discharge into the French Broad River and a whopping 92 µg/L of arsenic in the Riverbend discharge to Mountain Island Lake. This small lake provides drinking water to nearly one million people in the greater Charlotte region of Mecklenburg and Gaston counties.
Hartwell Carson and Donna Lisenby, two Western North Carolina Riverkeepers, have their own evidence to suggest why these important lakes are so polluted. Their data shows a very significant increase in the total amount of water pollution discharged by the Asheville plant after scrubbers were added in 2005 and 2006.
“These are very toxic pollutants that have no business in the French Broad River where people swim and recreate every day,” said French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “The fact that the scrubbers have doubled the amount of water pollution is a great concern and illustrates why we need to clean up the toxic coal ash lagoons and move Asheville Beyond Coal.”
Ditto for the rest of the country, no?
Image via Takver/Flickr