Press Release | March 2, 2018

Data on the Extent of Groundwater Pollution from Utilities’ Coal Ash Pits Due Today

Deadline under National Coal Ash Rule Comes One Day after Trump Administration Proposes to Weaken It

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–Below is a statement by Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, regarding today’s deadline for utilities under the national coal ash rule, known as the CCR Rule or Coal Combustion Residuals Rule, to post monitoring data for groundwater pollution from their unlined coal ash lagoons and plans for corrective action.

“Today is the first time that many American communities will know the extent of groundwater contamination from utilities disposing of their coal ash in leaking, unlined pits sitting in groundwater next to our drinking water resources. Toxic pollution that exceeds limits would require utilities to stop their coal ash pollution and restore our water resources to natural conditions.  But, giving a favor to industry lobbyists, the Trump administration announced last night that it wants to weaken this provision and protect the polluters instead of the people and clean water.  Instead of doing the right thing, politically powerful utilities are fighting to continue polluting and to avoid cleanup and the consequences of their toxic pollution. Now the Trump EPA is helping big coal ash polluters instead of protecting American families and communities.”

Background Information:
•    Utilities in North Carolina (Duke Energy), Tennessee (TVA), Virginia (Dominion) Georgia (Georgia Power), and Alabama (Alabama Power, TVA) are contaminating groundwater.

•    Tests of groundwater at TVA’s Allen coal ash site (Allen) in Memphis, Tennessee, have revealed arsenic levels at more than 300 times the legal limit. This toxic groundwater sits directly above the city’s source of drinking water.

•    Tests of groundwater near Duke Energy’s leaking, unlined pits in North Carolina have shown exceedances of arsenic, boron, chromium, lead, selenium, and other toxic pollutants. Duke Energy's tests of groundwater near some North Carolina coal ash sites also show high levels of radium (radium 226 + 228).

•    Tests of groundwater near Dominion’s leaking, unlined pits in Virginia show similar signs of heavy groundwater contamination, including multiple and consistent exceedances for arsenic, chromium, lead, radium, thallium, and other toxic pollutants.

•    A plume of contaminated groundwater from Duke Energy’s coal ash site near Wilmington, N.C., migrating towards a communal drinking water well caused the community to have to abandon its drinking water well.

•    Tests of drinking water wells for families and communities near Duke Energy coal ash sites in North Carolina have shown levels of the carcinogen hexavalent chromium and other toxins above recommended health standards. Some families have been on bottled water for over a year.

•    At TVA sites in Alabama, groundwater data has shown high concentrations of arsenic, boron,  ammonia, vanadium, and other toxic pollutants.

•    Again and again, utilities have refused to obey the law in their handling of coal ash.

•    Duke Energy is on criminal probation and it pled guilty 18 times to nine Clean Water Act crimes at its coal ash sites across North Carolina.

•    A court found that Dominion put arsenic from its coal ash into the Elizabeth River in violation of the Clean Water Act.

•    Last year, a federal judge ordered TVA to excavate all unlined coal ash pits at its Gallatin site due to pollution leaking directly into the Cumberland River, a drinking water source for local communities. Groundwater sampling conducted since the trial shows that arsenic contamination levels are much higher than originally known.

•    Duke Energy previously attempted to dodge CCR compliance by blacking out its emergency contacts and information in the event of a dam failure–as happened at TVA’s Kingston coal ash site in TN—that  nearby and downstream communities needed for emergency planning. It posted the information un-redacted after citizen groups sent notice that they would sue.

•    The Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced today that Alabama Power will face a $1.25 million fine for on-going violations of groundwater pollution at several of its coal plant facilities across the state, including the E.C. Gaston plant, Greene County plant, James H. Miller plant, James M. Barry plant, and the William C. Gorgas plant. ADEM’s order cites on-going violations of the Alabama Water Pollution Control Act and ADEM administrative code after groundwater testing data submitted by Alabama Power showed contamination of groundwater with pollutants such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and beryllium.

For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

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