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REPORT: Contaminated groundwater nationwide suggests illegal dumping by coal ash sites

23 Jun 2011  |   Emma Brown

Tags: Clean Water, Toxics

Thirty-three coal ash disposal sites across nineteen states tested positive for high levels of groundwater contamination in violation of federal law a report by the Environmental Integrity Project found. 

Tests revealed levels of arsenic, selenium, lead, cadmium and other toxins in ground water around coal ash sites high enough to require application of the “open dumping” provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), effectively classifying the water as toxic and unsafe to drink. 

While RCRA was implemented in the 1979 to ban open dumping of leftover toxins in coal-ash sites, the EPA is prohibited from enforcing the act and states were never provided funding to implement the policy. 
EIP Director Eric Schaeffer explained:

“EPA put rules in place in 1979 that should have forced closure or cleanup at contaminated sites long ago. Because EPA was prohibited by law from cracking down on open dumping violations, they have been largely ignored by industry, so the pollution continues to this day, and in some cases has gotten worse. Reenacting this charade by creating another ‘imaginary program’ – as the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power just did on June 21 – is pointless, and won’t do anything to protect people who live near these dumps. If Congress is going to pass another law, they ought to make it enforceable, or stop wasting taxpayers’ money on make-believe programs.”

The sites of concern were located in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. However, the EIP stressed that the study was limited in scope, and that the results likely represent a small slice of a much more prevalent problem throughout the nation.

View the full report here.

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