SOURCE: The Daily Climate

DATE: March 6, 2019

SNIP: New data shows arsenic at levels 372 times greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold for safety in groundwater an hour northwest of Pittsburgh.

The cancer-causing pollutant is leaching from a former coal ash landfill at the New Castle Generating Station, according to a new report. Of the 265 power plants throughout the U.S. that are investigated in the report, New Castle Generating Station ranked number five of the 10 most contaminated sites.

The study, conducted by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, used industry-reported data from more than 4,600 groundwater monitoring wells located around the ash dumps of 265 coal-fired power plants, or roughly three quarters of all coal plants in the country. Of those sites, 91 percent were contaminated with unsafe levels of toxic contaminants like the ones found at the New Castle site.

The researchers discovered arsenic levels of 3,724 micrograms per liter in groundwater at the New Castle Generating Station site—enough to cause cancer in one out of six people exposed to that level of the pollutant. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level used under the Safe Drinking Water Act is 10 micrograms per liter.

Exposure to arsenic can cause leukemia and lymphoma, cancer of the skin, stomach, and kidneys, and result in lower IQs in children.

Public drinking water must be tested to ensure it contains fewer than 10 micrograms per liter, but testing is not required for private wells. These levels of arsenic in the groundwater could mean the contaminant is making its way into private wells, rivers, and streams in the region. The area surrounding the site is largely rural, so many residents are reliant on private wells.

Advice for homeowners near the site on private wells: “Familiarize yourself with what pollutants have been found at the site, then test your well water for all of those pollutants.

“If it looks good, don’t worry. Wait a few years and then test again. If it looks bad, call a lawyer.”