Foundation to address coal pollution in North Carolina waterways

Foundation to address coal pollution in North Carolina waterways

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Catawba River Keeper Foundation hosted a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Riverbend Access Area on Mountain Island Lake, where they discussed a coal water pollution report that was written by Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Clean Water Action and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Organizers said the report highlights how the coal industry is "poisoning our water and how we can stop it."

The Catawba River Keeper Foundation claims this is a very timely issue because after three decades of delay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to curb the dumping of billions of pounds of pollution from coal-fired power plants into U.S. waterways and drinking water sources.

Environmentalists with the foundation tell WBTV that "Newly released data will show that a strong EPA rule would sharply reduce human and wildlife exposure to dangerous water pollution such as arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, selenium, and other heavy metals."

Duke issued the following statement in response to the pollution report.

"Trace materials in Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie are routinely below state surface water standards. The idea that any coal plant can discharge an unlimited amount of metals is absurd. State regulators evaluate our plant discharges regularly and reassess our discharge permits every five years."

Here is a portion of the pollution report:

Existing national standards meant to control coal plant water pollution are 39 years old and fail to set any limits on many dangerous pollutants. Only now has the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to update these outdated standards, in order to curb discharges of arsenic, boron, cadmium, lead, mercury, selenium, and other heavy metals from coal plants.

Although the Clean Water Act requires the EPA and states to set pollution limits for power plants in the absence of federal standards, three states have routinely allowed unlimited discharges of this dangerous pollution.

Our review of 386 coal-fired power plants across the country demonstrates that the Clean Water Act has been almost universally ignored by power companies and permitting agencies. Our survey is based on the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database and our review of discharge permits for coal-fired power plants.

For each plant, we reviewed permit and monitoring requirements for arsenic, boron, cadmium, lead, mercury, and selenium; the health of the receiving water; and the permit's expiration date. Our analysis reveals that:

• Nearly 70% of the coal plants that discharge coal ash and scrubber wastewater are allowed to dump unlimited amounts of arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, and selenium into public waters, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

• Only about 63% of these coal plants are required to monitor and report discharges of arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, and selenium.

• Only about 17% of the permits for the 71 coal plants discharging into waters impaired for arsenic, boron, cadmium, lead, mercury, or selenium contained a limit for the pollutant responsible for degrading water quality.

• Nearly half of the plants surveyed are discharging toxic pollution with an expired Clean Water Act permit, and 53 power plants are operating with permits that expired five or more years ago.

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