Enjoy, Explore, and Protect the Planet Sierra Club Allegheny Group, Pennsylvania Chapter

Coal Campaign Rivers and Water

‘Rally for the Rivers’ Supports Stronger Standards for Power Plant Discharges

Photo: R. Francisco

ACTION: Submit your comments HERE for the EPA’s proposed power plant effluent guidelines.

To highlight support for EPA’s proposed new standards for the dumping of waste water from power plants into our rivers, a Rally for the Rivers was held in Pittsburgh on August 24. Members of the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the Center for Coalfield Justice and Three Rivers Waterkeeper gathered at Point State Park with kayaks and canoes, and banners and signs. It was a beautiful day and a really fun event for all who participated.

The standards governing water pollution from power plants have not been updated in 30 years even though, according to the EPA, more than half of all toxic water pollution in the country comes from coal-fired power plants. Coal plants are the number one source of toxic water pollution in the U.S. Pennsylvania has 28 active coal-fired power plants and only 8 have permits that limit dumping of toxic metals, while only 4 plants have permits that limit selenium, mercury, and lead. This new rule would clean up dangerous pollution from plants in the area including Bruce Mansfield, Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell.

The last time these standards were updated Michael Jackson had just released “Thriller” so power plants have been dumping millions of pounds of unregulated toxic waste like arsenic and selenium into our rivers for a LONG time,” said Tom Hoffman, Western Pennsylvania Director for Clean Water Action. “Citizens can go to our website www.cleanwater.org, and make a formal comment to the EPA to update and strengthen these antiquated rules.”

More than 23,000 miles of U.S. rivers and streams are being damaged by steam electric plant discharges, which include arsenic, mercury, lead, boron, cadmium, selenium, chromium, thallium, vanadium, bromides and more. For example, each year nearly 65,000 pounds of lead, 3,000 pounds of mercury, and 80,000 pounds of arsenic are discharged into surface waters like rivers, streams and lakes where kids play, families fish and communities get their drinking water.

For too long, Pennsylvanians have had to deal with the costly consequences of coal, especially dangerous water pollution,” said Joanne Kilgour, Legal Director at the Center for Coalfield Justice. “The standards proposed by EPA would help to prevent further harm to the rivers and streams we value, and hold the coal industry accountable.”

Toxic pollution from coal plants can increase the risk of cancer, threaten brain development in children and destroy the waterways we all enjoy. These new safeguards will protect our families and help ensure our waters are safe to drink, fish, swim and enjoy,” said Randy Francisco from the Sierra Club”.

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