Tell the EPA to protect our water supplies from toxic coal ash and mountaintop removal mining
The Environmental Protection Agency is grappling with two critical issues regarding how to protect America's water supplies from dirty coal: permitting mountaintop removal coal mining and regulating toxic coal ash.
Mountaintop removal coal mining continues to ravage Appalachia's communities and environment. Coal mining corporations are detonating 2,500 tons of explosives each day to blow up Appalachia's mountains and extract coal from the seams below. They have already obliterated more than 500 peaks and ridges -- encompassing more than a million acres -- buried more than a thousand miles of valley streams under tons of rubble, poisoned and uprooted countless communities and caused widespread contamination to the region's water.
Although the EPA recently blocked all 79 of the mountaintop mining permits submitted by mining companies to the federal government for approval, the decision is a temporary one, and could be reversed under pressure from coal mining companies and their congressional allies. Moreover, the gains recently made against mountaintop removal mining could be offset by the release of toxic coal ash wastes into water supplies.
Coal power plants in the United States produce more than 130 million tons of toxic coal combustion waste -- or coal ash -- every year. Weak state regulations allow the power industry to dump this waste in improperly constructed landfills, unlined ponds and even porous old mines, where toxics leach out and pollute water supplies. Although coal ash contains dangerous pollutants such as arsenic, lead and mercury, no federally enforceable national regulations exist to guarantee its safe management and disposal. Certain types of ash disposal sites pose a cancer risk nearly 1,000 times the government's acceptable level, along with irreversible risks to aquatic life, birds and wildlife.
The EPA is now evaluating whether and how to regulate coal ash, as well as how to proceed with the 79 mountaintop removal mining permits on hold.