Report Shows Dangers of Coal Ash Waste Sites Throughout the US

In Winter of 2008 a coal ash slurry pond in Tennessee broke its damn, contaminating miles of downstream waterways and people’s homes with deadly carcinogens and other toxic substances. At the time it was called the worst environmental disaster since the Exxon Valdez and brought  a wake up call to the EPA that this waste product was entirely under-regulated. EPA now stands poised to set new regulations on coal ash waste, but the coal industry is lobbying strenuously against it, advocating for a much weaker standard that will do little to change the status quo.

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has just released a report called In Harm’s Way which takes a look at groundwater contamination surrounding coal ash waste sites throughout the country. The report showed that contaminants at 39 coal-waste sites across 21 states have leached into the groundwater. Many coal ash sites did not have enough data available to show any meaningful results, particularly here in Texas, but the Fayette coal plant (which Austin is a partial owner in) showed considerable contamination beneath their site. Adam Engelman, Environmental Analyst with EIP, stated that:

At every one of the coal ash dump sites equipped with groundwater monitoring wells — concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic or lead exceed federal health-based standards for drinking water, with concentrations at LCRA’s Fayette Power Project reaching as high as 4 times the state standard for selenium and twice the state standard for arsenic.

The report shows that coal ash itself is a disaster simply by existing, regardless of catastrophic events like what happened in Tennessee almost two years ago. EPA must not give into industry lobbyists and pass weak regulations that will fail public health and the environment. Visit Sierra Club’s Coal Ash website for information on an EPA hearing near you, and to sign up to speak at the hearings. If you cannot make the hearings you can also submit online comments here – be sure to ask EPA to adopt the strictest regulations possible.

In order to make a profit, coal companies rely on making the public pay for the damage they cause. We should no longer have to bear the cost of their mistakes and irresponsibility.

You can see the EIP report here and you can see the press conference that was held Thursday in Austin here:

Press Conference, Sponsored by Berman, Leo – Sierra Club on Coal Combustion Waste

or by going to the Texas House of Representatives video archive and clicking on the link dated 8/26/10 with the same title.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.