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After 30 Years of Inaction, EPA Finally Proposes Plans for Power Plant Water Pollution

Includes options protecting waters from toxic pollution as well as weaker standards that maintain the status quo

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a number of regulatory options late last Friday night, known as steam electric effluent limitation guidelines for power plants, two of which will finally clean up water pollution from hundreds of power plants.

Power plant water discharges are filled with toxic pollution such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium—heavy metals that can cause neurological and developmental damage, cause harm in utero, damage internal organs and cause cancer. Power plants are the biggest sources of water pollution in the country, yet the EPA has not reviewed regulations for this industry in more than 30 years. To address this unacceptable delay, environmental groups filed a lawsuit in 2010 to force the EPA to take action and regulate this dirty industry. 

The following statement is from Appalachian Voices, Clean Water Action, Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Waterkeeper Alliance on today’s proposal:

“After 30 years of inaction, the EPA has finally offered a plan that utilizes affordable, available pollution controls to clean up toxic power plant waste water. We need strong protections that limit the amount of mercury, lead, arsenic, chromium, and other heavy metals that power plants are dumping into the rivers, lakes, and streams where we fish, boat, swim, and drink. The technology to clean up power plant water discharges exists, and in many cases is already being used. While the EPA has presented a menu of options, there are two options (Options 4 and 5) that address all of the contaminated wastewaters of concern across the industry. We are heartened to see that the EPA has identified these options as both achievable and affordable, and we urge the agency to settle on a final choice that will keep America’s waters safe and clean as the Clean Water Act requires. 

“In addition to the protective alternatives identified by the agency, the EPA also included many weaker options that would allow power plants to continue to dump poisons unabated from unlined pits. Some of these options also create sweeping exemptions.

“Toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plants makes people sick. Those who live in the communities around these plants have had all kinds of concerns about the pollution—everything from reduced property values to extremely rare forms of cancer. We applaud the EPA for taking this next step to address the problem, and we will keep fighting to ensure the EPA chooses the strongest regulation to protect our health and our water.”


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