In her recent article "Keeping Coal Ash Contained: EPA Proposes New Coal-Ash Regs" [May 19], author Susan Andrew quotes Progress Energy spokesperson Scott Sutton confidently claiming, "The EPA has evaluated the health safety of CCPs three times since 1980, and all three times the agency determined that these products should be regulated as non-hazardous."
Since 1980? That may be so. But what Sutton failed to mention was that according to the most recent EPA tests conducted in December 2009, coal-ash pollution can in fact easily be classified as hazardous waste. After introducing new testing procedures, the federal agency came up with some pretty shocking results:
• Arsenic, a potent carcinogen, leached from one coal-ash sample at 1,800 times the federal safe drinking water standard, more than 3 times the threshold of hazardous waste and over 76 times the level of previous leach tests.
• Antimony, which causes heart, lung and stomach problems, leached at 1,800 times the federal safe drinking water standard and over 900 times the level of previous tests.
• Chromium, which can cause cancer and stomach ailments, leached … at a level 73 times the federal safe drinking water standard, over 1.5 times the hazardous waste threshold, and 124 times the level of previous leach tests.
• Selenium, which causes circulatory problems in humans and is a bio-accumulative toxin extremely deadly to fish, leached … at nearly 600 times the federal drinking water standard, 29 times the hazardous waste threshold and nearly 66 times the level of previous leach tests.
This study provoked environmental group Earthjustice to release a statement saying, "The new testing procedure emphasizes the need for the EPA to make the right decision and choose the stronger of the two proposals for federally enforceable coal ash safeguards that use the strongest limits of the law to protect the communities living near coal ash sites."
If, as Mr. Sutton claims, it's in Progress Energy's "corporate culture statement to be good stewards of the environment," perhaps his large industrial firm with a vested interest in the results of EPA's decision might consider the latest data.
— Eamon Martin