Hundreds to Rally at EPA Hearing on Coal Ash in Louisville
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The health dangers to children living near a toxic coal ash site are worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, according to those who are demanding stronger federal safeguards from coal ash, a byproduct generated by coal-fired power plants. Well-known environmentalists, including author Wendell Berry, will join Kentucky residents and those from Indiana, Ohio and Missouri, on Tuesday to testify to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the health and environmental threats posed by waste ponds filled with coal ash, which they want classified as hazardous waste.
Barbara Gottlieb, deputy director of the Environmental Health Program for Physicians for Social Responsibility, says coal ash contains 19 harmful heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury.
"And these substances, if they're eaten or drunk or inhaled, can cause cancer. They can cause nervous system impacts such as cognitive deficits and developmental delays. They affect virtually every major organ system in the human body."
A recent report by environmental groups documents the growing problem of coal ash contamination, including hazards at three coal ash dump sites in Kentucky. Gottlieb argues that federal regulation can keep coal ash from being trucked to other states with more relaxed rules.
"Coal ash is regulated currently at the state level, not at the federal level. EPA is not engaged; each state makes its own rules. Kentucky will have rules different from its own neighbors."
Louisville resident Monika Burkhead lives near the Louisville Gas and Electric Cane Run coal ash site that is looking to expand. She's convinced that toxic chemicals are partly to blame for her daughter's poor health.
"I feel like we're being treated like guinea pigs for LG and E. We didn't ask to be sacrificed for the sake of cheap electricity from dirty coal, but it's the burden we bear."
The coal and power industries say the current system of state regulation of coal ash is adequate. The EPA hearing in Louisville begins at 10 a.m. at the Seelbach Hotel.
The report is available at http://action.sierraclub.org/harmsway.