Each year, coal-fired power plants dispose of nearly 100 million tons of toxic fly ash, bottom ash, and scrubber sludge in wet ponds and landfills. Can living next to one of these dumpsites increase your risk of getting cancer or other diseases? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thinks so, especially if you live near one of those wet ash ponds, or surface impoundments, that dot the landscape near large coal plants, the pond has no protective liner, and you get your drinking water from a well. According to a comprehensive but little known risk assessment released by the EPA in 2007, nearby residents have as much as a 1 in 50 chance of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated by arsenic, one of the most common, and most dangerous, pollutants from coal ash.
This brief analysis from the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice highlights key findings from the EPA‘s 2007 risk assessment, which was based on a detailed analysis of landfills and surface impoundments at 181 coal-fired power plants, primarily identified by a 1995 survey by the Electric Power Research Institute.