WHAT IS COAL ASH?
Coal ash is our country's second largest waste stream. It is a byproduct of coal combustion and contains high levels of harmful heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and selenium. As technology has allowed power plants to capture more hazardous pollutants that would have gone into our air, these toxins have become part of the solid waste mixture that is coal ash. We have traded one form of toxic pollution for another.
Coal ash ponds are also prone to collapse, as happened near Kingston, Tennessee in 2008 when over 1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry spilled into the Clinch and Emory Rivers. More recently, the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history occurred early in February 2014 when a Duke Energy coal ash pit in North Carolina breached and released up to 27 million gallons of polluted water and over 82,000 tons of ash. Unfortunately, environmental catastrophes such as this are becoming more frequent.
ILLINOIS RANKS FIRST IN THE NATION WITH NUMBER OF COAL ASH PONDS
Illinois generates more than 4.4 million tons of coal ash EVERY YEAR, and imports coal ash (or coal combustion waste) from six or more other states. This waste, one of the most toxic substances known to human kind, is stored in over over 90 coal ash disposal pit through the state.
Threat to Your Health
Most of the coal ash ponds in Illinois are unlined, and many are leaking into adjoining surface and ground waters, polluting drinking water supplies and threatening fish and wildlife. In fact, when groundwater near Illinois’ 24 coal-fired power plants was tested by the Illinois EPA in 2009, coal ash contamination was found at EVERY single site.
When coal ash spills, leaks or leaches into nearby groundwater or waterways, the toxins contained within pose serious health risks to nearby communities. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that living near certain coal ash ponds is significantly more dangerous than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
A person living within one mile of an unlined coal ash pond has a 1 in 50 lifetime risk of cancer — more than 2,000 times higher than the EPA goal for cancer risk. Other health risks include birth defects and neurological damage.
- Illinois At Risk: Lax safeguards and no enforcement endanger the water, air & lives of residents near coal ash dumps. 2011. Prairie Rivers Network and Environmental Integrity Project.
- Coal Ash: The Toxic Threat to Our Health and Environment. 2010. Physicians for Social Responsibility and EarthJustice.
Fact Sheet (Overview)
- Students stopped by EJC's booth to talk about protecting the Middle Fork from coal ash pollution.
- This short video was taken by EJC while kayaking past Dynegy's three toxic coal ash pits.
- On June 8, 2016, the Vermilion County Board reaffirmed its position attempting to protect the National Scenic Middle Fork River.
Tell the Illinois Pollution Control Board to Act on Coal Ash Rules
Until recently, Illinois was moving forward with rules that would regulate the disposal of coal ash. But the Illinois EPA has asked the IPCB to indefinitely stay its rule-making proceedings, concerned over industry-led legal challenges to the federal rule. With over 91 toxic sites, Illinois needs strong rules now.
Protect Illinois' Only Scenic River from Coal Ash Pollution!
Dynegy wants to cap and walk away from three coal ash ponds in the floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River in central Illinois. Two of these ponds are unlined and leaking toxic waste into the river. All three are eroding, threatening collapse, which would sent millions of coal ash downstream.