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EPA: Higher Cancer Risk for Kentuckians Due to Coal Ash Waste

May 8, 2009

Frankfort, KY – Environmental groups are reacting to news The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, for seven years, not released information documenting health risks for people, animals and fish near coal-fired power plant landfills and waste ponds. An analysis of the research shows Kentucky is home to several high-risk sites where EPA knew for years that the cancer risks were much higher.

Eric Schaeffer, director the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), is a former EPA official. He says neighboring communities show higher cancer and non-cancer health risks near the facilities due to a long list of toxins seeping into groundwater.

"Unlined waste ponds can result in exposures up to nine times the federal standard for lead, and there are additional toxic metals that exceed thresholds, which are generally established to protect people."

The EIP and Earthjustice released the analysis Thursday, and are calling for the EPA to begin regulating coal plant waste immediately.

Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans says it’s unconscionable that the EPA hid from the public known health risks to people, animals and aquatic life.

"Since 2002, the EPA has known that coal ash can kill us and destroy ecosystems. We need to listen, learn and support prompt and effective action."

The report shows 20 states are home to five or more "high-risk" sites. In Kentucky, unlined waste ponds are found in Mercer, Woodford, Lawrence and Clark Counties. Initial response from the utility industry is that their facilities follow all current federal rules on waste ponds and have active management programs to protect public health.

The full report is at www.environmentalintegrity.org/pub640.cfm.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - KY