Congress first asked the EPA to study possible standards for managing coal combustion waste in 1980. Decades passed without meaningful action.
A 2002 screening study, the precursor of the EPA’s 2007 Risk Assessment, identified astronomical cancer risks and dangers to aquatic life from coal ash dumps, but it was not made public until March 4, 2009 –seven years after it publication. Freedom of Information Act requests to EPA during the Bush administration were denied or resulted in the production of documents with the cancer and non-cancer risk estimates blacked out. What was being hidden and why? Key findings from the study include:
- Cancer risk for up to 1 in 50 for residents from arsenic leaching into drinking water
- Higher risk for non-cancer illnesses from lead; liver, kidney, nervous system
- Threat from coal ash sites can last longer than 100 years
- The number of clay lined and unlined ash ponds and landfills is likely to be double the previous estimate
- There are “Eye-popping” risks to aquatic ecosystems and wildlife; ash ponds are predicted to leak boron into surface water in concentrations up to 2000 times the estimated safe level; landfills will release boron at levels 200 times above the safe level
For full text of the summary of the report, Coming Clean: What the EPA Knows About the Dangers of Coal Ash, and related charts, go to http://www.environmentalintegrity.org
EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, has promised a decision on regulating CCW as hazardous by December 2009.
An October 15 news release from EPA announced a plan to retool and reinvigorate the clean water enforcement program. Last July, Administrator Jackson directed EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance to develop the plan in response to data showing that the nation’s water quality is unacceptably low in many parts of the country.
More information on the plan: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/cwa/cwaenfplan.html