The Environmental Integrity Project released a report this week finding that many coal ash waste sites across the country are emitting harmful toxins into groundwater that is exceeding federal limits on drinking water standards. There are no current federal laws against coal ash or combustion wastes. The report found that many of these unregulated waste sites contained levels of arsenic as high as 145 times the legal limit as well as other dangerous toxins such as sulfates, boron, and selenium.
The report found that the Consumers Energy Karn/Weadock coal ash waste site in Saginaw Michigan had concentrations of boron and arsenic in the groundwater near the site 99 times over the legal limit. They also found that the landfills are a major contributor to arsenic in the Saginaw Bay area.
The report comes at a critical time for Michigan as there are all kinds of plans for new coal plants including the contested proposed coal plants in Bay City and Rogers City. This comes after a recent study by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) found that Consumers Energy will not need any additional energy capacity until 2020. Environmentalists have been advocating for increased efficiency, renewable energy, and gas generated energy plants.
The Rogers City plant has been particularly controversial as the coals ash would be several thousand feet from Lake Huron. The other concern is that the geography in the area is full of sinkholes and karst formations which are cracked limestones formations that get filled with underground voids or underground streams. Critics of the plant fear that the toxic chemicals would leach into the groundwater and pollute Lake Huron. Officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE) have drilled at the site and determined that the site is solid and safe for coal ash disposal.
At a recent public meeting most of the local residents were in favor of the local plant since it would bring desperately needed jobs. On the other side if something was to go wrong than it could be an expensive mess for taxpayers and export pollution to other communities. The state has yet to grant the final permits for the plant.
Critics of the recently approved Bay City power plant say the fight is far from over. They are also attacking the plan of toxic coal ash disposal. One group that owns stock in Consumers Energy is asking the company to better explain the plan to dispose of the millions of tons of toxic coal ash, while other groups are trying to persuade the MPSC to not grant consumers Energy their final certificate of need which is the final permit required before construction can begin.
Environmental Integrity Report:
Out of Control: Mounting Damages From Coal Ash Waste Sites