The latest independent study of water quality among 11 North Carolina lakes and rivers downstream from coal-fired power plants’ coal ash ponds revealed “high levels of contaminants that in several cases exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for drinking water and ecological effects.”
Coal ash, the toxic byproduct of burning coal for electricity, is typically stored in wet, often unlined, ponds. The most recent study, led by Duke University and published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology, examined discharges from these ponds and how they affect lakes and rivers at different upstream and downstream points.
Arsenic concentrations in water flowing from coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s Riverbend power plant into Mountain Island Lake, a primary drinking water source for Charlotte, were nine times higher than the federal drinking water standard. Near Asheville, coal ash pond discharges flowing into the French Broad River from Progress Energy’s Arden power plant had arsenic levels four times higher than the federal drinking water limit. Although this doesn’t mean that these cities’ drinking water itself is as contaminated as the discharge points, it shows a pattern of unacceptably high pollution from coal ash dumps.
The researchers’ surface water findings are likely unsurprising to folks who are familiar with the results of state groundwater monitoring near the 14 North Carolina power plants with unlined coal ash ponds that have found frequent exceedances of groundwater standards. (more…)