By Grace van Deelen
Seven years after US regulators set what were supposed to be strict rules for the disposal of coal ash—a toxic mix of metals such as arsenic and lead generated by coal-burning power plants—the vast majority of coal power plants are continuing to allow coal ash contamination of groundwater at levels considered unsafe, according to environmental advocacy groups.
Roughly half a billion tons of coal ash at 300 sites across around the United States are exempt from “life-saving health protections,” according to a petition delivered Thursday to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The petition calls on the agency to update regulations to include the complete closure and cleanup of legacy coal ash landfills and to take “aggressive enforcement against violators.” The petition specifically cites coal ash waste impacting communities in Indiana and Illinois. In addition to the organizations that signed on, the petition received nearly 2,000 citizen signatures.
“We want communities to know exactly what’s happening at their power plant. Much of it is very concerning and very damning,” said Lisa Evans, an attorney at Earthjustice, one of the lead groups petitioning the EPA.