Press Release | March 8, 2023

Communities safer after new rule limits toxic wastewater from coal plants SELC says

Zero discharges and stronger limits on wastewater from coal ash landfills critical

WASHINGTON–Families who depend on clean water will be safer thanks to new limits on water pollution from coal-fired power plants proposed by EPA today, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center. The proposed limits would replace weaker standards set by the Trump administration that in many cases have yet to go into effect.

“EPA is doing the right thing for families and communities by eliminating toxic water pollution from coal plants using technology that’s available and affordable,” said Nick Torrey, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It’s essential that EPA stand firm on these zero discharge standards and strengthen its limits on wastewater from coal ash landfills, because that is the only way to stop poisoning the drinking water sources that families and vulnerable downstream communities depend on.”

Water pollution from coal-fired power plants includes toxic metals like arsenic, mercury, and lead, as well as bromides that form cancer-causing pollution when run through conventional drinking water systems that supply downstream communities like those along the Dan River in North Carolina. Pollution from Duke Energy’s Belews Creek power plant resulted in levels of this harmful pollution far above standards in downstream drinking water systems for the towns of Eden and Madison, N.C.

Under the rule, major sources of toxic water pollution would be subject to zero-discharge standards based on readily available treatment technology. Other standards, such as those for the leachate that accumulates in coal ash landfills, are not as strict and could be tightened further in the final rule in response to public comments. Coal-fired power plants that are retiring by 2028 are exempt, as are power plants that have implemented pollution controls under the current rule and are retiring by 2032.

At least 30% of all toxic water pollution from all industries in America comes from coal-fired plants, according to EPA. In the Southeast, the percentage is likely even higher because of the prevalence of polluting coal-fired power plants.  EPA is accepting public comment for 60 days and aims to have the rule finalized in 2024.

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Press Contacts

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: [email protected]