Monday, February 7, 2011

Coal ash, back in the news with hexavalent chromium

Posted By on Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM

From Facing South, part of the Institute for Southern Studies, some important news for Charlotteans to consider since there are four nearby high-hazard coal ash ponds on the Catawba River, aka our main drinking water source.

The landmark $333 million court settlement that propelled legal researcher Erin Brockovich to environmental stardom involved the contamination of a California town's groundwater with hexavalent chromium, a toxic compound known to cause cancer.

Now the same dangerous heavy metal, usually associated with steel manufacturing and metal plating, has been discovered seeping from coal ash disposal sites nationwide -- and at levels that far surpass what Brockovich encountered.

"Communities near coal ash sites must add hexavalent chromium to the list of toxic chemicals that threaten their health and families," says Lisa Evans, an attorney with the public interest law firm Earthjustice.

Evans is the author of a report released this week titled "EPA's Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" [pdf] that was produced with Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Environmental Integrity Project. The federal government does not currently regulate the disposal of coal ash, the toxic waste created by coal-fired power plants that's known to contain potentially dangerous levels of heavy metals, combustion byproducts and radioactive elements. But in the wake of the catastrophic 2008 coal ash spill from a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in east Tennessee (photo above), the Environmental Protection Agency began crafting rules expected to be released this year.

Read the rest of this article, by Sue Sturgis, here.

Here's Brockovich, and others, discussing hexavalent chromium at an event in Texas circa 2009:

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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