Duke University researchers released a report this week that makes me less than enthusiastic to gulp down eight glasses of water a day.
Apparently, there are high levels of arsenic, selium and other toxins in rivers and lakes downstream from coal-fired plants' settling ponds in North Carolina. Some of the highest levels were found in coal-ash pond effluents flowing to Mountain Island Lake, a primary water source for Charlotte, and the French Broad River in Asheville.
What does that mean for anyone who drinks water? So, like, everyone?
Avner Vengosh, one of the study's authors, told me that there's no immediate danger to our drinking water supply since much of the arsenic is embedded in the mud under the lake. But, without proper monitoring - there isn't much done now, he said - all that crud could eventually make its way into our water bottles, depending on seasons and water levels. Less water during droughts means whatever arsenic is in the water isn't as diluted, which raises the threat of contamination.
Vengosh stressed another important point:
“We are saving the sky by putting in more scrubbers to remove particulates from power plant emissions. But these contaminants don’t just disappear. As our study shows, they remain in high concentrations in the solid waste residue and wastewater the coal-fired power plants produce. Yet there are no systematic monitoring or regulations to reduce water-quality impacts from coal ash ponds because coal ash is not considered as hazardous waste."
Read the report here.