AEP / Coal / Coal Ash / FirstEnergy

Coal ash report reveals 4 additional Ohio sites, 39 nationwide

As coal ash hearings begin across the country, impacted citizens criticize companies and lack of government regulation

COLUMBUS – As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers how to regulate toxic waste from coal plants, Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and Sierra Club issued a report today on the nationwide scope of the problem. The report, In Harm’s Way, reveals 39 new sites in 21 states where toxic coal waste has threatened water supplies, including 4 sites in Ohio. It documents the steadily growing number of waters known to be poisoned by poor management of the toxic ash left over when coal is burned for electricity.

“My community is getting poisoned. We’ve got multiple coal ash sites, including the Gavin power plant, plus so-called beneficial uses like when they dump the waste on our roads in the winter,” said Elisa Young from Meigs Citizens Action Now. “This is a justice issue. We need the EPA to regulate coal ash disposal and reuse, and hold the coal industry responsible for cleaning up its mess.”

Ohio is home to some of the most polluted sites in the report. At AEP’s Cardinal plant in Brilliant in eastern Ohio, levels of arsenic and molybdenum were recorded at over 10 times safe federal levels; at AEP’s Gavin plant in Cheshire in southern Ohio, alpha particles, arsenic, barium, and molybdenum were recorded at over 5 times safe federal levels. All four sites are less than two miles from private water wells, and the Cardinal plant is less than five miles from five different public wells.

The pollution in coal ash is known to cause cancer, organ disease, respiratory illness, neurological damage, and developmental problems. The data shows that this toxic pollution is flowing into nearby communities, polluting private drinking water wells and even putting some public water supply wells at risk. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has no requirements on groundwater monitoring of coal ash sites. Nationwide, not one state has required the toxic pollution to be stopped, let alone cleaned up.

Researchers found the sites by reviewing existing files at state agencies, and are only the tip of the iceberg amongst poor or non-existent monitoring and regulations. Sandy Bihn, from the Western Lake Erie Waterkeepers, has concerns about FirstEnergy’s Bayshore plant near Toledo, which is responsible for killing 2 billion fish and fish larvae each year. Bihn said “FirstEnergy’s new plan to divert the fish requires a bypass be cut through their old coal ash disposal site, which simply can’t be done safely because we don’t know what’s in there. They need to install cooling towers, which are proven to work in these situations.”

The report comes just days before the EPA begins a series of hearings across the country to gather public comment on new protections from toxic coal ash. Details on the hearings, which will be held in Virginia, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, can be found at www.sierraclub.org/coalash.

Rachael Belz, Coal Program Organizer, Ohio Citizen Action

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