Fossil-fuel burning power plants discharge at least 5.5 billion pounds of pollution into rivers, streams, lakes and bays each year. Coal-burning plants in particular discharge some of the most dangerous heavy metals on earth, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and selenium. Power plant wastewater has contributed to over 23,000 miles of contaminated rivers, fish too polluted to eat in 185 bodies of water, and the degradation of 399 water bodies that are used as public drinking water sources.
In September 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will issue new regulations to reduce toxic pollutants in power plant wastewater, which will produce enormous benefits to human health and the environment. This report discusses the health benefits the new rules could achieve by eliminating toxic power plant water pollution and examines EPA’s estimate of the monetary value of these benefits.