NEW YORK, NY — Today, the United States Environmental Protection Agency released a final rule setting limits on toxic water pollution from power plants. Coal-fired power plants and their massive coal ash disposal ponds are the #1 source of toxic water pollution in the country, but until now, there have been no uniform limits on the amount of dangerous heavy metals that these facilities are allowed to discharge into waterways.
“Decades overdue, EPA’s new limits will finally address the country’s biggest source of toxic water pollution,” said Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Pete Harrison. “While the rule still fails to address waste leaking from old, inactive coal ash ponds, it will steer the industry away from the all-too-common practice of piping ash slurry into huge, unlined waste pits next to our rivers and lakes. That’s a big step forward.”
Coal-ash and other industrial wastewater from power plants contains large amounts of toxic heavy metals including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and selenium. These pollutants can cause severe health and environmental problems including cancer risks, lowered IQ among children, and deformities and reproductive harm in fish and wildlife. Once in the environment, these contaminants remain there for many years, accumulating in fish and other animals. Many of these effects disproportionately impact low-income and minority communities.
The EPA estimates that the new rule, once implemented, will eliminate 1.4 billions of pounds of harmful pollutants from entering waterways across the country every year. The new requirements are expected to create about $500 million in health and environmental benefits annually, while costing most power plants less than one percent of their annual revenue.
Power plants do not have to comply with the new requirements until their Clean Water Act discharge permits are modified to incorporate the changes, but no later than 2023. Waterkeeper Alliance will continue to monitor water pollution from coal ash dumps across the country, and will hold companies accountable for meeting the EPA’s new standards.
About Waterkeeper Alliance
Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 250 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect more than 2 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. For more information please visit: www.waterkeeper.org