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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must take another look at its rules that will likely fail to protect the public from the health threats of toxic coal ash waste dumps. Critics of the rules, which were amended last year, have observed that the rules allow hundreds of communities throughout the United States to be exposed to contaminated drinking water that is linked to cancer, brain damage, heart disease, and stroke.
One group filed a lawsuit in 2015, on behalf of several public interest groups and a Native American tribe that forced the EPA to issue modest regulations on coal ash waste dumps. The regulations mandated regular testing of the water near the landfills to ensure that toxic chemicals were not contaminating local drinking water supplies. The EPA is now proposing further revisions of these mandates.
Coal ash, also known as coal combustion residuals (CCR), is a byproduct of burnt coal. Fine particles of coal ash are released into the air during combustion. Coal ash also collects at the bottom of furnaces used by electric power plants, requiring operators to dispose of it. There were over 130 million tons of coal ash generated in 2014, making it one of the leading sources of industrial waste in the United States.
Coal ash becomes toxic when fine particles are inhaled and when unlined landfills leak toxic chemicals into groundwater, often the primary source of drinking water for surrounding communities. This toxic water also affects fish and plants in local rivers and estuaries. Toxic chemicals in coal ash are related to serious and even deadly health consequences in humans.
When coal ash is inhaled or ingested through contaminated water and food sources, it causes an increased risk of bladder cancer, skin cancer, kidney cancer, and lung cancer. Asthma and other respiratory diseases are other common effects.
Exposure to toxic coal ash over time can result in brain and nervous system impairment. Seizures, vision impairment, loss of hearing, numbness, cognitive impairment, and peripheral neuropathy are common side effects of this type of toxicity. Stomach ulcers and ulcers in the intestinal tract, silicosis, and weakened bones leading to osteoporosis can also develop from prolonged exposure.
If you or someone you know has been injured or sickened by environmental hazardous waste, call the Philadelphia environmental lawyers at Williams Cedar at 215-557-0099, or 856-470-9777, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Our Haddonfield, New Jersey and Philadelphia offices serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and nationwide.