Thousands of groundwater wells near coal ash dumps across the U.S. contain arsenic, lead, and other toxic pollutants at levels that exceed federal health-based thresholds for safe drinking water, according to the Environmental Integrity Project’s (EIP) database, Ashtracker.
Coal ash, a toxic waste generated by coal-fired power plants, is one of the largest industrial waste streams in the United States. Each year, coal plants generate over 100 million tons of ash, most of which is dumped into landfills and ponds that are often unlined. Pollutants in the ash frequently leak into groundwater and nearby waterways, and some of these contaminants, such as arsenic and mercury, can cause cancer, neurological damage, and other health problems.
While information about groundwater contamination is difficult to find, EIP’s updated Ashtracker website gives the public access to industry data recorded in state records. Ashtracker displays this information in easy-to-understand interactive maps and customized data downloads. Community organizations and local citizen groups, for example, can use Ashtracker to identify nearby coal ash dumps with unsafe levels of arsenic or other pollutants. Other users of the website can use data queries to find information to meet their specific needs
The database currently tracks groundwater contamination at 112 coal ash sites across the country, with over 3,000 monitoring wells at these sites, and monitoring data going back to 2010. 76 percent of these wells have exceeded safe drinking water guidelines for one or more pollutants. Simply stated, most of the water sampled near coal ash dumps is unsafe to drink.
At a time when coal is seeing a resurgence of support, EIP will continue to provide vital information to the public about the long-lasting environmental impacts of burning this dirty fuel through Ashtracker.org.
Visit Ashtracker.org to explore what’s new and subscribe to our mailing list for updates.