No More Coal Ash Toxics in Our Waters! - Waterkeeper

No More Coal Ash Toxics in Our Waters!

By: Larissa Liebmann

Miami Fort Power Station near Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Miami Fort is a coal-fired and oil-fired electric plant_By Amy Nichole Harris:shutterstock_1169646352

For decades, coal-fired power plants have profited from being allowed to dump unlimited amounts of toxic coal ash pollutants into our waterways, pushing the cost of their dirty industry on communities and the waterways they use. In 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally issued a regulation that addressed this massive source of unregulated pollution: the Effluent Limitation Guidelines and Standards for Steam Electric Power Plants, often referred to as the “ELG rule.” This rule requires coal power plants to install technology to treat their wastewater and dramatically reduce the dangerous pollutants being released into our waterways. 

Now, EPA is catering to industry complaints and is trying to weaken some of these vital standards. Please file a comment today calling on EPA to abandon its rulemaking that would allow coal companies to save money by dumping more toxic pollutants in our waterways. 

Coal ash wastewater, which is produced when coal is burned, contains heavy metals and chemicals known to harm human health, including lead, mercury and arsenic, and coal-fired power plants are the largest source of toxic water pollution in our country. Coal ash water pollution impacts waterways throughout the nation, contaminating drinking water sources, making fish unsafe to eat, and stopping people from enjoying their waterways. 

EPA’s 2015 ELG rule was a first step towards addressing this issue. It requires power plants to install technology to treat this wastewater so that far lower levels of pollutants are released into waterways. However, despite EPA’s extensive research demonstrating that meeting the 2015 standards would be cost-effective for power plants, industry balked at making the needed investments.

EPA has now proposed revisions to the ELG rule that will allow many coal plants to wait longer to implement pollution reduction measures and use treatment measures that will save them money but will externalize the costs by leaving more pollutants in the wastewater that is released into our waterways. This rulemaking is a blatant attempt to boost coal industry profits at the expense of waterways and the communities that rely on them. 

It is incredible that, in 2019, coal-fired power plants are still poisoning our waterways. Adding insult to this injury, EPA is now trying to reverse the much-delayed incremental progress made towards stopping this pollution. 

Please submit your comment today asking EPA to abandon this latest coal industry handout. The deadline to comment is January 21, 2020. You can also sign up to speak at EPA’s online public hearing on Thursday, December 19.

Photo by Amy Nichole Harris/