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Alliance for the Great Lakes: Lyman Welch, 312-445-9739
Americans Have a Simple Message for EPA: No Toxic Water!
As the public comment period closes on EPA’s proposal to curb water pollution from steam-electric power plants, more than 165,000 Americans have told EPA to protect clean water
WASHINGTON - September 20 - Power plants, particularly coal-burning power plants, are the largest polluters of our nation’s waters, discharging more than 5 billion pounds of toxic contaminants into the nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams every year – more than the next nine top-polluting industries combined. In April EPA proposed a long-overdue update to Clean Water Act standards for power plants – the first update since 1982. The public comment period for
EPA’s Proposed Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category closes today. More than 165,000 Americans have supported the strongest possible standards to protect water from power plants’ toxic pollution.
All summer, environmental and clean water groups, including Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Sierra Club, have mobilized people across the country – at rallies, public hearings, and in face-to-face meetings – to support a strong rule.
Americans are speaking out because, as EPA’s own data reveal, more than half of all toxic water pollution in the country comes from power plants, making them the number one source of toxic water pollution in the United States. These discharges have degraded 399 water bodies around the country that provide drinking water to local communities, and 40% of coal plants discharge within 5 miles of a drinking water intake.
“Americans are frustrated that power plants have been able to treat our water like their own private sewer for so long,” said Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director for Clean Water Action. “They want to see EPA put drinking water first by adopting common sense standards.”
"Unless the EPA acts, this problem is only going to get worse as more and more power plants resort to dumping toxics in our water. By the agency's own estimate, 30% more contaminated wastewater will be pumped into lakes and streams over the next 15 years. They acknowledge the problem, so now they should act, by following the established law of the Clean Water Act that the public overwhelmingly supports,” says Dalal Aboulhosn, Senior Washington Representative for the Sierra Club.
EPA found that readily available, affordable technologies can be used to virtually eliminate toxic pollution from power plants, but this will only happen if EPA selects the strongest possible standards.
Under heavy pressure from the industry, EPA’s proposal says that it prefers to select a cheaper option that falls short of what the Clean Water Act requires.
“For 30 years, power plants have had polluted our waters with toxic chemicals, even though there are laws on the books that require the industry to clean up its act,” said Thom Cmar, an attorney with Earthjustice.
“Americans have spoken and they overwhelmingly support strong protections from this pollution. The EPA must take this opportunity to finally right this wrong and clean up the nation’s biggest water polluters.”
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance said, “Allowing coal polluters to fill our rivers and lakes with this witches brew of toxic chemicals threatens public health and diminishes quality of life for Americans. The Clean Water Act is one of our nation’s greatest achievements, but forty years after this critical legislation was passed, the coal industry is still polluting with impunity, thanks to a loophole no other industry has enjoyed.”
The human health impacts from this pollution are serious. The EPA estimates that: nearly 140,000 people per year experience increased cancer risk due to arsenic in fish from coal plants, nearly 13,000 children under the age of seven each year have reduced IQs because of lead in fish they eat, and almost 2,000 children are born with lower IQs because of mercury in fish their mothers have eaten.
“The strongest power plant rules are especially important to protect the Great Lakes where mercury is the primary cause of fish consumption advisories,” said Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Director for Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Comments from the public urging strong EPA action have been overwhelming: It’s time for EPA to end this power plant water pollution.
"It is time to hold the coal industry accountable for cleaning up this pollution. Americans deserve - and the law demands - commonsense safeguards that protect downstream communities and our watersheds from dangerous heavy metals," said Jennifer Duggan, managing attorney, Environmental
Integrity Project. "Affordable treatment technologies are available to eliminate toxic discharges for power plants and are already in use at some plants. There is no excuse for further delay."