Jan 21, 2019

Report Explores Coal Ash Groundwater Contamination in Texas

A new report found groundwater contamination in all coal ash sites in Texas

Groundwater contamination found across coal ash sites in Texas
Groundwater contamination found across coal ash sites in Texas

A new report released by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) found that all coal ash pits in Texas with available data are leaking contaminants into groundwater, including arsenic, boron, cobalt and lithium. The report also argues that the current state and federal regulatory framework is not sufficient to protect groundwater from contamination.

The report, titled Groundwater Contamination from Texas Coal Ash Dumps, investigates groundwater monitoring data recently made publicly available in 2018 through new federal coal ash regulations. It found that 16 out of 16 coal-fired power plants in Texas had unsafe groundwater surrounding the plants.

“We found contamination everywhere we looked, poisoning groundwater aquifers and recreational fishing spots across the state,” said EIP Attorney Abel Russ. “This confirms that dumping large volumes of toxic waste in poorly-lined pits is a terrible idea. The problem is unfortunately going to get even worse unless Texas power plants change the way they dispose of coal ash.”

The 16 plants investigated cover all of the state’s coal ash plants, excluding two that do not have ash dumps onsite. The majority of Texas’s coal ash disposal units meet EPA liner design criteria and are effectively unlined, causing leaking into groundwater, according to the report.

In terms of contamination, 12 of the 16 coal plants have unsafe levels of arsenic in surrounding groundwater, nine have unsafe boron, 13  have unsafe cobalt and 10 have unsafe lithium levels. The most severe groundwater contamination found at the Texas plants was found an hour south of San Antonio at the San Miguel Electric Co-Op power plant, the report details.

The report concludes by making recommendations for the state to cleanup and limit coal ash contamination, including mandatory cleanups, monitoring and prevention.

Read the full report here.