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SOURCE: Inside Climate News

DATE: January 18, 2019

SNIP: The clearest picture yet of coal ash contamination in the United States is emerging, with utilities reporting serious groundwater contamination in at least 22 states.

At dozens of power plants across the country, including many in the Southeast, utilities have found coal-ash pollution severe enough to force them to propose cleanup plans. Those plans will likely become the next front in a decades-long battle over how to manage one of the nation’s largest industrial waste streams—one tainted by toxic heavy metals.

Utilities for decades have annually produced more than 100 million tons of coal burning wastes, including ash and scrubber sludge. The ash contains contaminants like selenium, mercury, cadmium and arsenic associated with cancer and other serious health effects, according to the EPA.

This new national picture of coal ash contamination has emerged in part because the environmental groups Earthjustice and Environmental Integrity Project, with others, have combed through utility websites, collecting information from documents that utilities began publishing last year. The groups have issued several reports in recent weeks with similar conclusions.

For example, in Illinois, they found evidence of toxic pollutants such as arsenic, cobalt and lithium in groundwater at 22 of 24 coal ash dump sites. In Georgia, similar contamination was reported at 11 of the state’s 12 coal-fired power plants. A report released Thursday reveals evidence of contaminants leaching from all 16 coal-fired power plants with ash ponds or landfills in Texas.