Coal Plant Wastewater

Wastewater from a coal-fired power plant

Appalachian Voices’ Sandra Diaz talks with a resident who lives near one of Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plants.

The enormous environmental and health risks associated with power plant pollution have finally been acknowledged through a new set of rules on the wastewater discharges.

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.

>> Take a minute to thank EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for her leadership on this issue.

Coal Ash Rule vs. Power Plant Wastewater Rule

In 2014, the EPA issued guidelines that assist states in managing permits for how coal ash is stored and managed.

The “effluent limitation guidelines” create minimum standards for how power plants treat wastewater that is released into rivers, lakes and streams.

While there is some overlap between the coal ash rule and the effluent standards, we need both to be truly protective of all of our water resources.

[ Learn more about coal ash ]

In recent years, power plant discharges have become even more toxic as stronger clean air rules require utilities to “scrub” pollutants out of air emissions, which then wind up in the wastewater. For years, 8 out of 10 discharge permits for coal plants have allowed for unlimited discharges of these toxic wastes into our waterways.

The rules for power plant discharges had not been updated for more than 30 years. The Environmental Protection Agency has been analyzing new rules for several years, and heard from more than 150,000 people urging the agency to provide the strongest protections for our waters.

In September 2015, the EPA issued final rules requiring power plants to eliminate their toxic discharges and convert to a dry handling of waste products.

This victory will stop hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxics entering into our streams and rivers every year.

Sign up to become a Voice for clean water lets citizens learn about specific coal ash dumps in the South, including information on health threats and safety ratings. Brought to you by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, N.C. Conservation Network and more.