By Jennifer Peters, National Water Campaigns Coordinator – Follow Jennifer on Twitter (@EarthAvenger)
A year ago today, a storm water pipe beneath a Duke Energy coal ash pond near Eden, NC broke and spewed an estimated 140,000 tons of toxic ash and contaminated waste water into the Dan River. 140,000 tons is certainly a lot of pollution, but what you might not know is that coal-burning power plants across the country discharge an estimated 15,000,000 pounds of toxic waste water in to our nation’s rivers, lakes and bays every day. That’s the equivalent of a Dan River-sized coal ash spill happening every 18.6 days or approximately 20 times a year.
In fact, no other industry comes even close to polluting our nation’s waters with this amount of toxic waste. Wastewater from coal plants contains a toxic brew of heavy metals, arsenic, nutrients and other nasty chemicals that are known to be harmful to humans and aquatic life. And the 15,000,000 pounds a day (or 5.5 billion pounds a year) is only a rough estimate of what we know based on permitted discharges. In reality, many of the ponds where plant wastewater is stored are unlined and unmonitored and, all too frequently, leak or fail. Read the rest of this entry »