The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold utilities in several Midwestern states accountable for coal ash waste. The agency announced it will require these utilities to clean up their coal ash waste.
Coal ash waste, produced by coal-burning power plants, has been dumped into giant pits or ponds for decades. But coal ash waste is filled with toxic chemicals, which have “leaked into the water, contaminated soil, and poisoned air,” causing “serious health and safety hazard,” according to the Sierra Club.
“From Puerto Rico to Tennessee, North Carolina to Illinois and beyond, grassroots advocates have been pushing the EPA, states and utilities to clean up coal ash dump sites,” Jonathan Levenshus, director of federal campaigns for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said. “Today’s announcement requiring some utilities to follow the law and stop dumping toxic waste into our communities, once and for all, is a strong step in the right direction to protect our health and safety.”
Some of the known toxic chemicals in coal ash waste include heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and chromium. With more than 1.5 million children living near coal ash storage sites, it raises the risk for cancer, heart disease, and stroke, according to the Sierra Club.
“President Biden’s EPA is demonstrating a re-commitment to doing what it was established to do: protect our communities from toxic pollution, especially the ones most impacted by dirty coal plant waste,” Levenshus said. “For years utilities neglected basic safeguards endangering families and communities across the country.”
While many utilities tried to continue sending toxic waste to their ash ponds for years to come under the Trump administration, but the Biden administration reverted back to safeguards that were put in place by the Obama administration.
The EPA under the Biden administration will now require waste left behind from coal plants, both commissioned or decommissioned, be removed and safely disposed of.