‘Clean Coal’ Is Poisoning Our Water

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?


Related Reading:

Higher Utility Bills? Thank The New Coal-Fired Power Plant

28 New Coal Ash Water Pollution Sites Revealed

Coal Industry Gets Desperate For Friends


Image via Takver/Flickr


Mary Hebblewhite

Thanks for this info....hugely important.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thanks for a great article,

yap eunie
yap e4 years ago

clean coal polluting water = having babies?
pls, separate this irrelevant discussion ...
i find this statement is indeed offensive.. for God's sake, the fact that we are here today because we were once babies...!!

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Michael Kirkby
Michael K4 years ago

BTW Mittsy have you ever been to Muehlenberg County? Mr. Peabody's coal train don't run there no more. It shouldn't run anywhere. Although we have emission removing technology allowing us to use coal it is the process in getting it from the ground that is deplorable and results in pollution that I consider complicity in mass manslaughter. I haven't seen any technology offered that would allow us to remove coal safely from the ground in an environmentally friendly way.
Blowing the tops of mountains and corralling up your slurry into pens that leak into the aquifers and other water systems can hardly be called anything amounting to "clean coal."

Michael Kirkby
Michael K4 years ago

Although I agree with the reduction in birth I'm not so sure about carbon credits. Gore's house alone uses the power that 300 houses do in a year. Then there's all the big rock stars; politicians and their ilk whose carbon footprint on the environment is huge but they can buy carbon credits to assuage their conscience.
Face it; until India and China get on board with environmental controls and major cleanup programs anything such as the Kyoto Process will not work. BTW India and China are doing quite well economically. China is a major investor in the Tar Sands; would like to purchase Nexen and a couple of other companies too. I don't think you can consider them developing nations anymore. Many third world nations certainly are thanks to the rape and pillaging done by the IMF; the WCB and the multicorporations who fund these dirty little wars to prevent someone else getting access to them. It creates an indentured wage slave class working for peanuts; manufacturing products they will never be able to afford and the deliberate cutting of services such as education; health care and other services necessary for healthy economic/social growth. I don't buy the idea of carbon credits even though it may be well intentioned.

Ernest Roth
Ernest R4 years ago

@ Daphne T. “One of the most important ways people can help save the environment is to STOP HAVING BABIES.” Very true. Too many people still haven’t figured that out. An almost equally important way is to stop importing immigrants, especially those who consider it necessary to have huge families. THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE. Please forgive my shouting. We need to reach the people who are hard of hearing.

Ernest Roth
Ernest R4 years ago

Judy S. “you all want to attack me no matter what I say so do as you please.” You do as you please. Why shouldn’I I ? Hopefully some day it will occur to you that maybe all want to attack you because you are really annoying. P.S. How or why would I want to meet a figment of your imagination

Anna Sokratous
Anna Sokratous4 years ago

Clean Coal?? what is that???????? SAVE OUR PLANET!!!!!

Arild Warud
Arild W4 years ago

Can someone please explain what "Clean Coal" is.