Sierra Club Statement on New EPA Coal Ash Protections

Springfield Residents Urge State Agencies to Finally Take Steps to Monitor Toxic Ash, Enforce Protections for Local Water

WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)—December 19, 2014. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the first-ever federal standards for the storage and disposal of coal ash aimed at protecting thousands of communities from the 140 million tons of ash pollution produced annually by America’s coal plants. Coal ash, the toxic by-product that is left over after coal is burned, contains toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium and other health threatening substances. The public health hazards and environmental threats to nearby communities from unsafe coal ash storage have been documented for decades, including increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, asthma, and other illnesses.

For years, environmental and public health organizations have called on the EPA and the Obama Administration to impose common sense protections for retired and still operating coal ash sites that treat its disposal with the same level of scrutiny as other dangerous materials.

City Utilities (CU) in Springfield, which largely relies on coal, needs additional space to dump ash waste from burning coal at its Springfield-area coal-fired power plants.

The proposed landfill would be built on top of porous karst formations just outside Springfield. The nature of the karst formations makes the proposal landfill extremely susceptible to leaking and contaminating local groundwater.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has raised concerns with City Utilities moving forward with its risky proposed coal ash landfill due to CU’s failure to conduct groundwater monitoring and the porous nature of the karst topography at the proposed sites.

Despite DNR’s concerns, CU received a green light to start siting its coal ash landfill on karst formations after pushing legislation through the Missouri legislature in 2013. CU relied on lobbying and backroom deals with Missouri lawmakers to include approval of its risky landfill preliminary site investigation in the HB28 bill.

In response to today’s news, Dr. Judy Dasovich, a Springfield-area Physician, released the following statement:

“The coal ash standard released today by EPA and the Obama Administration is a modest step forward to protect communities from toxic coal ash.

“Before EPA’s announcement today, coal ash disposal was not subject to any federal oversight, and state laws governing its disposal were usually weak or non-existent. For decades, coal ash has been dumped in the backyards of power plants across the nation, into open-air pits and precarious surface waste ponds. Most of these sites lacked adequate safeguards and left nearby communities at risk from groundwater contamination, ash piles blowing into nearby communities or large-scale disasters like the massive coal ash spill in Tennessee in 2008 and, most recently,the Dan River spill in North Carolina.

“Some parts of the rule provide useful tools for communities, like requiring groundwater monitoring and dust controls around coal ash sites and making that data available to the public, but we are disappointed that it allows utilities to continue disposing of coal ash in ponds and does not incorporate strong federal enforcement. The standard still leaves people to largely fend for themselves against powerful utility interests that have historically ignored public health in favor of delayed action.

“CU’s plan to build a risky coal ash landfill puts our water at risk. With federal rules now in place, it is more important than ever for City Utilities to heed DNR’s concerns with its landfill plans and move the proposed landfill to a location that does not endanger groundwater.”


Related Article:

EPA Announces First National Regulations to Safeguard Disposal of Coal Ash