Bay Journal

Topics: Pollution

Coal ash contaminated groundwater at almost all monitored sites

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Just after Virginia legislators voted to end the storage of coal ash in pits where it could leach into groundwater and rivers, a report released in March revealed widespread coal-ash contamination in 39 states — and at more than 91 percent of the power plants monitored. They include sites in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The report by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project relies on monitoring data from coal-fired power plants that an Obama era regulation required them to release for the first time in 2018. Of the 265 power plants that were impacted by the requirement, the report found that groundwater near 242 of them contained “unsafe levels” of one or more pollutants from coal ash. It also cited a coal ash landfill in Maryland’s Patuxent River watershed as one of the 10 worst coal ash contamination cases in the country.

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About Pollution

Nutrient pollution, the nitrogen and phosphorus that originates from farms, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff and air pollution, is a major source of pollution to the Chesapeake. In the Bay, they spur growth of algae blooms which block sunlight needed by important underwater grass beds. When the algae dies, they are decomposed in a process that depletes the water of oxygen needed by other species.

Sediment eroded from the land and streambanks degrades stream health and reduces water clarity. Toxins and other chemical contaminants also pose a direct threat to fish throughout the Bay and its watershed.

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