Earlier this week, coal ash spilled into Lake Michigan when a cliff gave way near a power plant in Wisconsin. The Sierra Club says it’s a reminder these risks to the environment exist in Pennsylvania and other states
In 2008, two large coal ash impoundments collapsed in Tennessee, but since then little has changed to reduce the risk of environmental contamination according to Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. She says the EPA vowed to put safeguards in place but Congress has blocked the way.
Hitt wants to see changes such as putting liners under the landfills to keep the coal ash out of contact with water and some monitoring wells to tell whether heavy metals such as mercury or lead are getting into drinking water. She’d like to see a move away from storing the ash in big ponds.
Hitt says Pennsylvania has a couple dozen coal ash sites and some have been designated as potentially hazardous. After the Tennessee incident, DEP ordered the re-inspection of more than three dozen impoundments in Pennsylvania. Although it’s not officially classified as hazardous, coal ash can contain low concentrations of arsenic, lead and mercury.
Hitt says people can go to sierraclub.org/coalash and they can get a list of sites in their area.