EIP and Community Groups Push EPA to Adopt Long Overdue Federal Coal Ash Protection

Groups head to court to force issuance of important national safeguards

Washington, D.C. – Environmental and public health groups will file a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to complete its rulemaking process and finalize public health safeguards against toxic coal ash. Although the EPA has not updated its waste disposal and control standards for coal ash in over thirty years, it continues to delay these needed federal protections despite more evidence of leaking waste ponds, poisoned groundwater supplies and threats to public health. The groups’ lawsuit comes as EPA data show that an additional 29 power plants in 16 states have contaminated groundwater near coal ash dump sites.

Earthjustice is suing the agency under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) on behalf of Appalachian Voices (NC), Environmental Integrity Project, Chesapeake Climate Action Network (MD), French Broad Riverkeeper (NC), Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KY), Moapa Band of Paiutes (NV), Montana Environmental Information Center (MT), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Prairie Rivers Network (IL), Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (TN). RCRA requires the EPA to ensure that safeguards are regularly updated to address threats posed by wastes, but the EPA has never revised the safeguards to ensure that they address coal ash. Coal ash is the byproduct of coal-fired power plants, and includes a toxic mix of arsenic, lead, hexavalent chromium, mercury, selenium, cadmium and other dangerous pollutants.

The EPA’s data about groundwater contamination at 29 additional sites came as a result of a 2010 questionnaire the agency sent to approximately 700 fossil- and nuclear-fueled power plants in an effort to collect data on water discharges. The questionnaire collected general plant information and also required a subset of coal-fired power plants to collect and analyze samples of leachate from coal ash dump sites and report exceedances of toxic chemicals in groundwater monitored by the plants. The Environmental Integrity Project filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the data. After analysis by Earthjustice and EIP, according to the facilities’ own monitoring data, 29 sites had coal ash contaminants in groundwater, including arsenic, lead and other pollutants. Contamination was found at plants in 16 states, with multiple new cases in Texas (3), North Carolina (3), Colorado (2), South Carolina (2), Pennsylvania (2), Iowa (3), and West Virginia (5), among others.

A full list of all 29 sites can be found here: http://earthjustice.org/documents/legal-document/pdf/additional-coal-ash-contamination-sites.

For the full press release, please click here.

For a copy of the lawsuit, please click here.

For a copy of the NOI, please click here.