As burning coal to generate electricity for your family and home becomes an increasingly dangerous method of power generation, the federal government wants to know how to protect the environment from coal ash, which contains a huge arsenal of toxic chemicals. The EPA has assembled a team of toxicologists, researchers and non-scientists to begin collecting information from coal ash sites to establish limits on contaminants. Coal ash contains heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, lead and selenium. That stuff can lead to cancer and other health problems, and from mild to severe, it can sometimes be toxic to animals, fish and even humans.
The bottom line
The EPA is concerned about the landfill pollution and chemical contamination associated with coal ash disposal, but it also wants to know if EPA safety recommendations — for instance, implementing new requirements to monitor runoff from landfill operations — could improve the situation. Recent leaks of coal ash at Mississippi sites have the agency, along with Chesapeake Bay Foundation Executive Director Linda Lowe, concerned about pollution from the hard shells left on the ash instead of being covered with the soft soil.