New Report Details Cancer-Causing Chemical in Water Supply from Coal Ash while TVA Learns a Lesson from Coal Ash Disaster and Makes the Change to Cleaner Energy

Coal ash waste contains hexavalent chromium so I say, "Good Job!" to the TVA for their move to cleaner energy to power almost half a million homes!

Just weeks after recent headlines about hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing toxic chemical, contaminating drinking water systems around the U.S., a new report shows that there are tons of leaking coal ash sites across the country which are additional documented sites for such contamination. Power plants already dump more than 10 million pounds of chromium and chromium compounds into mostly unlined or inadequately lined coal ash landfills, ponds and fill sites each year.  The electric power industry is the largest single source of chromium and chromium compounds released to the environment.   Remember the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) coal ash disaster?  Now there was a leak huh? 

Well it seems that TVA has learned a lesson and is making some changes to safer and cleaner energy and it is a good thing considering what I heard today.

Today I learned that new information indicates that the chemical leaks into groundwater from coal ash dump sites maintained for coal-fired power plants. You might remember (if you are old like me) that hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium.

“Communities near coal ash sites must add hexavalent chromium to the list of toxic chemicals that threaten their health and families,” said Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel at Earthjustice. “It is now abundantly clear that EPA must control coal ash disposal to prevent the poisoning of our drinking water with hexavalent chromium.” 

As this new info is released, there are organizations that are working to help protect us from this hazard.  Public interest law firm Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Environmental Integrity Project are pushing for federally-enforceable safeguards from coal ash.  Plus, in a signal that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recognizes the hazards of hexavalent chromium exposure, they have called on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to testify tomorrow on a hearing about the chemical.

 “The pollution from coal ash sites is making people sick,” said Dalal Aboulhosn who works on coal ash for the Sierra Club. “As we’ve seen time and again, big polluters can’t be trusted to police themselves. We need EPA to hold them accountable.”

Coal ash, the leftover waste from power plants, contains arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, selenium and many other chemicals that can cause cancer and damage the nervous system and organs, especially in children. Hexavalent chromium is a highly toxic carcinogen when inhaled, and recent studies from the National Toxicology Program indicate that when leaked into drinking water, it can also cause cancer.

“The cancer risk from hexavalent chromium is one more serious threat to health from coal ash,” said Barbara Gottlieb, Deputy Director for Environment & Health at Physicians for Social Responsibility.  "To protect the public from carcinogens and other dangerous substances, the EPA needs to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste.”

“Studies by EPA, the state of California, and the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry show that ingesting minute amounts of hexavalent chromium increases the risk of cancer,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director for Environmental Integrity Project.  “Coal ash dumps have contaminated groundwater with much higher concentrations of this deadly carcinogen, according to the industry's own monitoring data. The Obama Administration should keep its promise to respect science and protect the public’s health, by putting strict standards in place to keep this contamination from spreading even further.”

Among the findings from the new report:

* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the type of chromium that leaches from coal ash sites is nearly always of the hexavalent variety, which is the most toxic form of chromium.
* The threat of hexavalent chromium drinking water contamination is present at hundreds of unlined coal ash sites across the country.
* At least 28 coal ash sites in 17 states have already released chromium to groundwater at levels exceeding by thousands of times a proposed drinking water goal for hexavalent chromium.
* The U.S. Department of Energy and electric utility industry have known for years about the aggressive leaking of hexavalent chromium from coal ash.
* Hexavalent chromium contamination from coal ash is clearly a grave threat. Yet the U.S. EPA, which is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, has completely ignored the cancer risk from chromium in groundwater.

So what to do?   Stay informed, make sure that you have your water tested and take a moment to think about the importance of clean water and what you are going to do to try to keep it a healthy source of life for us all.

P.S.- I am really glad that you stopped by our Environmental Booty Blog and I hope you have learned or shared a thing or two. I hope that , now that you've found us, you won't lose us! You can join our green living online community, subscribe to our posts, download our community toolbar or Tweet with me on Twitter to stay in touch! - Shane :)

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