Tell the EPA: Coal Ash Is a Threat to Public Health

Richard Hill and his wife live within a mile of the Clifty Creek coal plant in Hanover, Indiana. They’re worried about the plant’s coal ash waste dumps located near the area’s drinking water aquifer. Coal ash - a by-product of burning coal for electricity - contains some of some of the deadliest known toxic chemicals, including heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and chromium.

“We are concerned that this disposal situation threatens our health and safety,” said Richard.

This dangerous pollution has been leaking into groundwater and drinking water sources for decades, wreaking havoc on our communities. For decades, coal ash disposal was subject to no EPA oversight whatsoever, and this waste was dumped into more than 1,000 giant unlined pits, where toxic chemicals then seeped into water and soil and blew into the air in dozens of communities nationwide. Exposure to these toxics raises the risk for cancer, heart disease, and stroke, and can inflict permanent brain damage on children. 

The EPA passed rules in 2015 to regulate coal ash. Although the Trump EPA – led by a former coal lobbyist – tried to roll back these rules, the Sierra Club and its allies around the country fought back. And, because we won, the EPA is now telling several coal plants to follow the 2015 rules that require dangerous ash ponds to be cleaned up and safely closed. 

That’s where Richard’s comments and yours will come in – we need to tell the EPA we support the plan to clean up coal ash sites nationwide. From coast to coast, coal plants have tried to escape the 2015 rules. They’ve delayed the safe cleanup and closure of ash ponds, choosing instead to leave them in a condition that can permanently plague local communities with hazardous chemicals. 

“We urge you to enforce the coal ash rule,” said Richard in his comment to the EPA. “Impoundments like (Clifty Creek’s) with coal ash in contact with groundwater and/or in the floodplain need to be excavated and the waste hauled to safe disposal areas.”

Thankfully, the Biden-led EPA has said enough is enough. It’s proposing to reject coal plant schemes that have failed to contain the coal ash waste that is polluting our waters with toxic waste. By rejecting these coal plant schemes, the EPA will not only protect our communities from pollution, but it will also set a precedent for hundreds of polluting coal plants. No longer will polluters be allowed to leave ash sitting in groundwater indefinitely. And, no longer will “do-nothing” clean-up plans be allowed to hide the true extent of the water contamination caused by coal ash.

Over the past few months, Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz has met with EPA Administrator Michael Reagan on numerous issues. During those meetings, the Administrator has thanked Sierra Club members and supporters for submitting personal public comments. These personal comments help inform the agency, push it to do the right thing and protect local communities. Your story and your comments have power–now use them!

It’s time to clean up and close polluting coal ash dump sites. Let’s tell the EPA they have our full support for enforcing the 2015 coal ash rules to protect our communities from toxic coal ash pollution