• Analysis shows 91% of US coal-fired power plants that monitor groundwater are polluting it

    Date posted:

    • Post Author

      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

A compilation and analysis of data published by individual coal-fired power plant operators in the US has shown that 242 of 265 operators have reported unsafe levels of at least one pollutant coming from coal ash, the majority having unsafe levels of four pollutants or more. The very high rate of contamination – 91.3% of the plants with groundwater monitoring programs (which are about three-quarters of the coal-fired plants in the US) – will be cause for serious concern across the US and more generally across the world, with the US unlikely to be an anomaly. The pollutants include lithium, cadmium, selenium, arsenic, lead, cobalt, molybdenum, and radium, which in a significant number of cases have been found in concentrations hundreds of times above safe levels. Abel Russ, a lawyer at the Environmental Integrity Project, which compiled the information, said that the “major concern is that this could be a problem for decades or centuries because once the pollutants leach from the coal ash into the water, they are hard to get out.” Regulations regarding the disposal of coal ash – of which tens of millions of tonnes are produced per year – were tightened by the Coal Ash Rule of 2015, but have since been loosened somewhat.