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Report: Toxic Coal Ash Contaminating KY Water

August 30, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Hazardous levels of arsenic and lead exist in Kentucky waters due to poor management of toxic ash created by coal-burning power plants, according to a new report. It says coal ash sites at the LG&E Mill Creek Plant and East Kentucky Power Spurlock power station are leaking toxins into groundwater. It also lists 37 more problem waste sites in 21 states where concentrations of heavy metals exceed federal standards for safe drinking water.

Wallace McMullen, energy chair of the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club, says coal ash waste sites have proven to be significant health threats to waterways. He believes enforceable federal protections are long overdue.

"For years, nobody - including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - has had a full picture of how much toxic coal ash waste is out there, where it is and if it has been staying put."

The coal and power industries say the current system of state regulations is adequate.

Starting today, the EPA is holding a series of public hearings across the nation on whether to regulate coal ash as "hazardous waste." A hearing is scheduled in Louisville on Sept. 28.

McMullen says pollution from coal ash is linked to cancer, organ damage, respiratory illness and child development problems. The Army Corps of Engineers has counted 29 coal plants along the banks of the Ohio River, the drinking water source for 5 million people, he adds. Every year, McMullen says, coal plants produce more than 130 million tons of waste laden with hazardous chemicals.

"Coal ash is a big problem, a major health risk for all who live near a coal-fired power plant or who live near the Ohio River. We badly need the EPA to classify coal ash as a 'hazardous waste' and put strong protective regulations into effect."

The report is available at

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY