The long-awaited update to the 34-year-old standards for wastewater discharges from America’s power plants were finally released on Sept. 30 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The “effluent limitations guidelines” are a giant step in the right direction towards protecting the environment and the health of citizens.
Coal-fired power plants are responsible for polluting our streams, rivers and lakes with billions of pounds of toxic waste every year, accounting for more than 60% of heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and selenium in our waters. Numerous studies link this pollution to fish kills, deformed wildlife and contaminated drinking water supplies.
The most important component of the updated rule is a requirement that power plants convert to dry handling of fly ash (from the smokestacks) and bottom ash (left in the boilers). This should eliminate the toxins from wet-ash impoundments, which contributes more than 60 percent of all toxic waste discharges to our waters and is responsible for the impairment of thousand of miles of streams and rivers.
>> Read a good summary of the rule from EarthJustice’s Thom Cmar.
EPA heard from many hundreds of citizens around the country–including Appalachian Voices members and activists–who urged the agency for the last several years to issue strong rules to protect our waters.
This rule is the good news we have been waiting for. Combined with the coal ash rule that EPA issued last year, it represent a huge stride towards finally staunching coal ash pollution that has been happening for decades. It sends a message that the free license to pollute has ended.
As power plants across the country start to implement the new standards, and the real costs of coal-generated electricity are considered, it is my hope that it drives the South, and the nation, towards the more cost-effective solutions of energy efficiency and renewable sources.
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