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New report documents contamination of groundwater across the U.S. from coal ash

The report reveals 91-percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants with available data have contaminated groundwater with toxic metals.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — A recent report documents the widespread contamination of groundwater across the U.S. with toxic pollutants from the leaking coal ash dumps of power plants. 

The report tilted “Coal’s Poisonous Legacy," and produced by the Environmental Integrity Project with assistance from Earthjustice, examines the records of 265 power plants that, for the first time in 2018, were required to publicly report their groundwater monitoring results because of federal coal ash regulations.

The records reveal pollutants, including arsenic (a carcinogen), and lithium (which can cause neurological damage) in the groundwater at 91-percent of coal power plants in the U.S. Researchers reviewed groundwater tests from wells in the vicinity of coal ash dumps, and holding ponds.    

Researches included groundwater samples from four West Michigan locations.

- The closed B.C. Cobb facility in Muskegon County, formerly owned by Consumers Energy.

- Consumers Energy's J.H. Campbell plant in Port Sheldon.

- Grand Haven's Board of Light and Power's J.B. Sims power plant.

- The Holland Board of Public Works' closed James Deyoung power plant.

According to E.I.P. researchers coal ash ponds at the closed B.C. Cobb site are leaching toxins into groundwater. Samples from test wells at the property show "Arsenic" and "Radium" levels above the "maximum contaminant level" under E.P.A. drinking water regulations.

"Consumers Energy takes the groundwater test results seriously," said Roger Morgenstern, Senior Public Information Director for Consumers Energy. "We are ahead of schedule in implementing corrective measures such as closing unlined ponds containing coal combustion residuals," he added.

The company acknowledges some monitoring locations underneath coal ash retention ponds do not meet the federal drinking water standards, but points out the sites are not near any sources of drinking water such as wells or intakes.

"Drinking water wells will not be installed near these sites, and we’re already working to close ponds and improve environmental protections for the groundwater in these areas," said Morgenstern.

Environmental Integrity Project is a non-profit watchdog group. It's research estimates more than 100-million tons of coal ash is produced each year from coal power plants. 

The report ranks the 10 worst pollution sites from coal ash in the U.S. None are in Michigan.

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