For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Lisa Evans, Earthjustice, (781) 631-4119,
Barbara Gottlieb, Physicians for Social Responsibility,(202) 587-5225,
Patrick Mitchell, Environmental Integrity Project, (703) 276 3266,
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 519-8449,

Cancer-Causing Chemical in the Water: New Report Details Risk

Coal ash waste contains hexavalent chromium

WASHINGTON - Just weeks after recent headlines about hexavalent chromium, a
cancer-causing toxic chemical, contaminated drinking water systems
around the U.S., a new report shows that scores of leaking coal ash
sites across the country are additional documented sites for such

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued
Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from
hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical
leaks readily from leaking coal ash dump sites maintained for coal-fired
power plants.

Public interest law firm Earthjustice, Physicians for Social
Responsibility and Environmental Integrity Project are pushing for
federally-enforceable safeguards from coal ash as this new information
is released. Also, in a signal that the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee recognizes the hazards of hexavalent chromium exposure,
they have called on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
Lisa Jackson to testify tomorrow on a hearing about the chemical.

“Communities near coal ash sites must add hexavalent chromium to the
list of toxic chemicals that threaten their health and families,” said
Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel at Earthjustice. “It is now
abundantly clear that the EPA must control coal ash disposal to prevent
the poisoning of our drinking water with hexavalent chromium.”
Coal ash, the leftover waste from power plants, contains arsenic, lead,
cadmium, mercury, selenium and many other chemicals that can cause
cancer and damage the nervous system and organs, especially in children.
Hexavalent chromium is a highly toxic carcinogen when inhaled, and
recent studies from the National Toxicology Program indicate that when
leaked into drinking water, it also can cause cancer.

“The cancer risk from hexavalent chromium is one more serious threat to
health from coal ash,” said Barbara Gottlieb, Deputy Director for
Environment & Health at Physicians for Social Responsibility.  "To
protect the public from carcinogens and other dangerous substances, the
EPA needs to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste.”

 “The pollution from coal ash sites is making people sick,” said Dalal
Aboulhosn who works on coal ash for the Sierra Club. “As we’ve seen time
and again, big polluters can’t be trusted to police themselves. We need
the EPA to hold them accountable.”

“Studies by the EPA, the state of California, and the Agency for Toxic
Substances Disease Registry show that ingesting minute amounts of
hexavalent chromium increases the risk of cancer,” said Eric Schaeffer,
executive director for Environmental Integrity Project.  “Coal ash dumps
have contaminated groundwater with much higher concentrations of this
deadly carcinogen, according to the industry's own monitoring data. The
Obama Administration should keep its promise to respect science and
protect the public’s health, by putting strict standards in place to
keep this contamination from spreading even further.”

Among the findings from the new report:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the type of chromium
that leaches from coal ash sites is nearly always of the hexavalent
variety, which is the most toxic form of chromium.

The threat of hexavalent chromium drinking water contamination is
present at hundreds of unlined coal ash sites across the country.
At least 28 coal ash sites in 17 states have already released chromium
to groundwater at levels exceeding by thousands of times a proposed
drinking water goal for hexavalent chromium.

Power plants dump more than 10 million pounds of chromium and chromium
compounds into mostly unlined or inadequately lined coal ash landfills,
ponds and fill sites each year.  The electric power industry is the
largest single source of chromium and chromium compounds released to the

The U.S. Department of Energy and electric utility industry have known
for years about the aggressive leaking of hexavalent chromium from coal

Hexavalent chromium contamination from coal ash is clearly a grave
threat. Yet the U.S. EPA, which is currently in the process of deciding
whether or not to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, has completely
ignored the cancer risk from chromium in groundwater.


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