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Coal & Water

water pollution

Clean water can't wait

Coal-fired power plants are one of America's biggest water polluters. In fact, power plants dump more toxins into our rivers and streams than any other industry in the United States, including the chemical, plastic, and paint-manufacturing industries. The fouled waters pouring from coal plants are laced with arsenic, mercury, and selenium – toxins that build up in ecosystems and that are dangerous even in very small amounts.

As we've seen in West Virginia, North Carolina and elsewhere, chemicals and byproducts from using dirty coal can severely pollute drinking water supplies and waterways.

The Environmental Protection Agency and President Obama can protect our waterways from toxic coal pollution by adopting strong safeguards against coal ash, coal water pollution and toxic chemicals. Without strong federal standards to safeguard our waterways, those plants will keep sending toxic sludge into rivers and streams, where it threatens swimmers and boaters and anglers, poisons wildlife, wrecks ecosystems, and could even contaminate drinking water.

Tell the EPA we have waited long enough, it's time to finalize strong coal ash protections.

Dangerous Waters: America's Coal Ash Crisis

Each year, coal-burning power plants in the United States produce 140 million tons of hazardous coal ash. Much of this waste is stored in more than 1,400 sites across the country. According to the EPA, 1.54 million American children live near coal ash storage sites. Use the map below to learn more about many of these toxic coal ash sites.

 Spill sites     Potential Disasters [1]     High hazard sites [2]     Coal ash sites

[1] Potential disaster sites are profiled in Sierra Club's 2014 report, Dangerous Waters: America's Coal Ash Crisis. Click each site for more information.

[2] High hazard ponds are designated by the EPA.
In North Carolina, designations are from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Dirty Fuel Disasters In America


Enough is Enough: Coal Pollution Spills Reveal a Water Safety Crisis
When it comes to rivers and clean, safe water, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Hundreds of thousands of people have learned that the hard way over recent weeks, after a dangerous coal chemical spilled into the Elk River in West Virginia's capital city, and then toxic coal ash from a retired Duke Energy power plant spilled into North Carolina's Dan River.

Yet Another Coal Ash Spill: This Time In North Carolina
On Sunday, a stormwater pipe burst underneath an unlined pit storing wet coal ash at a retired Duke Energy coal plant in Eden, North Carolina, spilling up to 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of wastewater into the Dan River, six miles upstream from a drinking water source.

At Last! EPA Required to Finish Coal Ash Safeguards
EPA first proposed these standards in 2010, and they have been mired in red tape ever since. If the final protections are strong, getting them over the finish line will be a major victory for public health, safe communities, and clean water.