28 New Coal Ash Water Pollution Sites Revealed

A new report by the Environmental Integrity Project documents that 49 coal-fired power plants have contaminated groundwater at 116 coal ash disposal sites in the United States. The data which was released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to a Freedom of Information Act request revealed 28 previously unknown contamination sites in Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

Coal Power Plant Pollution Stored in Ponds and Landfills Across U.S. Landscape

Coal-fired electric power plants generate approximately 140 million tons of leftover ash every year, which they store in ponds, landfills, and abandoned mines around the United States. To date, there are no federal regulations on the disposal of ash.

Activists living near power plants and environmental advocates have asked EPA to classify the ash –which can contain arsenic, manganese, boron, selenium, and cadmium – as a hazardous material and to regulate its disposal. A massive coal ash spill at Tennessee Valley Authority site in 2008 briefly focused national attention to the problem, but EPA is yet to act so communities live in fear of similar accidents or from groundwater contamination as disposal sites leak slowly.

According to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, “Living near a wet coal ash storage pond is significantly more dangerous than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, according to a risk assessment done by EPA. . . . The toxins found in coal ash have been linked to organ disease, cancer, respiratory illness, neurological damage and developmental problems. People living with 1 mile of unlined coal ash ponds can have a 1 in 50 risk of cancer —that’s more than 2,000 times higher than what EPA considers acceptable.”

Previously Unknown Coal Ash Water Contamination Sites

For 28 of the disposal sites, groundwater contamination had never been publicly revealed. “Some of these plants were under the radar, and had never been identified before by EPA or in our earlier reports on ash ponds and landfill,” explained Environmental Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer in a press release.

Another 42 of the 91 power plants surveyed by EPA disclosed no data, reporting that water monitoring data was unavailable, refusing on the grounds that monitoring data is proprietary information, or simply assuring EPA that there was no contamination. According to EIP, at least one plant that reported no contamination to the federal government has been implicated as the source of pollution in state monitoring efforts.

“EPA’s Office of Solid Waste is still grinding away on proposed standards for coal ash disposal – more than three years after the TVA spill – but has somehow never found the time to require testing of the groundwater next to coal ash sites, or even to systematically collect the data that is already there. This “see no evil” approach leaves the public at risk, and makes it easier for polluters to duck responsibility for a growing problem,” charged Schaeffer.

DeSmogBlog that EIP’s report “comes on the heels of a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on an amendment to the Surface Transportation Act of 2012 that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash.” West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller is opposing the measure, but only because he’s afraid it might derail the transportation bill.

Take Action: Tell Your Senator to Reject the Coal Ash Amendment to the Transportation Bill

Related Reading

Fighting for Every Breath

EPA Steps in on Fracking

A Legacy Of Lies: The BP Oil Spill Two Years Later

Coal power plant image by thinkstockphoto.com


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago

...yep, humanity is beyond believe stupid, slowly killing all life....

Susan Oliver
Susan C5 years ago

Congress always has the final answer and goes over any Presidents head. Why have a President?

David Nuttle
Past Member 5 years ago

The pollution and corruption will continue until a Constitutional Convention is held to provide an amendment to reform Congress and create "barriers" to prevent Congress from being controlled by the polluting special interests (as it is now).

Barbara U.
Barbara U5 years ago

No surprise there......ironic how these sites are in conservative states - those who are usually on the side of climate change deniers. And one platform the repubs were running on was eliminating the EPA - the repub controlled House tried to pass bill after bill rolling back clean air/water standards. It's bad enough now, but imagine how bad it would get if they got their way. Do we really trust Big Energy to dispose of toxins safely - they're out to make a profit by any means necessary, and if the republicans had their way, who knows how much worse it could get. I know the dems have responsibity, but the republican record is pathetic when it comes to issues like this. You'd think folks in these red states would wake up....

B Smith
Barbara Smith5 years ago

Glad I don't live there! Thanks for the article.

Monica D.
Monica D5 years ago


Arild Warud

Clean air will soon be a luxury.

KS Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Unusable Lost Account
Past Member 5 years ago


Dawn F.
Dawn F5 years ago

Greed. These companies are GRABBING as much as they can, while they can, as fast as they can before other options become too close. They will fabricate, lie, invent any "truth" that fits or suits their objective. PROFIT. To hell with the consequences. Even if they are found out.... IT WILL BE TOO LATE. Once permission is granted, accepted... and the ball is rolling, forget it. To hell with how to clean it up, or that they don"t know how to contain or dispose of the waste. That all their deadly, caustic by products are seeping into the water table.
Even if these companies say they will be responsible, they won"t be. WHY do we let them get away with this kind of deception? Why isn't there a separate "watch dog dept", controlled by the US government, elected by the people BUT on their payroll, in place for all BIG OIL, coal mining operations & all potential polluters???
Case in point~ EXXON in Alaska AND the Amazon...