EPA Issues 6 Proposed Determinations to Protect Communities from Coal Ash Contamination

Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal in coal-fired power plants. Without proper management, coal ash can pollute waterways, groundwater, drinking water, and the air itself. And because coal ash contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium, chromium, and arsenic, it poses a serious public health risk.

In January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its latest action to protect communities and hold coal facilities accountable.

What action did the EPA take?

The EPA issued six proposed determinations to deny facilities’ requests to continue disposing of coal combustion residuals (CCR, otherwise known as coal ash) into unlined surface impoundments. The proposal would deny applications for these six facilities:

  • Belle River Power Plant – China Township, Michigan
  • Coal Creek Station – Underwood, North Dakota
  • Conemaugh Generating Station – New Florence, Pennsylvania
  • Coronado Generating Station – St. Johns, Arizona
  • Martin Lake Steam Electric Station – Tatum, Texas
  • Monroe Power Plant – Monroe, Michigan

Why were these proposals made?

The owners and operations of the CCR units at these facilities failed to demonstrate that the surface impoundments comply with requirements of existing CCR regulations. The EPA is proposing to deny these applications because of issues like inadequate groundwater monitoring, evidence of potential releases from the impoundments, and inadequate documentation for the design and performance of the impoundment liners, among others.

What happens if the denials are finalized?

Should the EPA finalize the six denials, the facilities will need to either stop sending waste to the unlined impoundments or submit applications to the Agency for extensions to the deadline for unlined coal ash surface impoundments. The Agency is also proposing a process for these facilities to seek additional time to address grid reliability issues. This process relies on reliability assessments from relevant regional transmission organizations, which ensures a reliable supply of electricity while protecting public health.

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