Target: Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Goal: Call on regulators to list coal ash as toxic waste and prohibit its use as landfill material
Coal ash is a toxic byproduct of mining, and until now its disposal has been loosely regulated. Following a massive coal ash spill in 2008 tribal leaders, public health groups and environmentalists pressured the government to finally weigh in on the hazardous waste. Yet as federal regulators prepare to issue a ruling North Carolina residents continue to fight back against the use of coal ash as landfill material beneath roads, buildings and parking lots where it poses considerable risk.
For years coal ash was sold and used to level ground and fill gullies. Much like the coal ash pond that tragically flooded North Carolina’s Dan River these fills are unlined leaving nothing to prevent their contents from poisoning nearby waterways. The Charlotte Observer reports that “State standards are so minimal that even property owners, much less their neighbors, might not know what’s underfoot. And while ash has a known ability to contaminate groundwater, fill sites are rarely tested.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed to announcing new coal ash regulations by the end of 2014. Coal ash contains numerous chemicals such as lead and arsenic that are known health hazards. Demand that the EPA classify coal ash as toxic waste, and prohibit its use as landfill material.
Dear Ms. McCarthy,
The EPA has spent years researching the dangers of “coal combustion residuals” like coal ash. By the end of 2014 the agency will announce new regulations governing the disposal of coal ash, either as hazardous or non-hazardous waste. Judging by the toxic spills in Kingston, Tennessee and more recently in North Carolina’s Dan River it is clear that coal ash must be regulated as hazardous waste. Despite the fact that arsenic, lead, and other chemicals in coal ash are known to cause a wide range of health problems the material is stored in unlined pools where it can contaminate groundwater. It has even been used as fill material at dozens of sites in North Carolina.
Coal plants are the single largest source of water pollution in the United States, yet most coal plants are currently allowed to dump unlimited amounts of toxic sludge into surrounding waterways. Regulation to address power plants’ water pollution hasn’t been updated in decades, and even EPA officials admit that change is long overdue.
As you prepare to issue updated regulations for the disposal of coal ash and other residuals, I urge you to consider the EPA’s sacred duty to protect human health and the environment. Hold energy companies accountable for their polluting and help prevent future toxic spills. Please, list coal ash as toxic waste and prohibit its use as landfill material.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia