Two San Antonio-area power plants are among the worst US sites for coal ash contamination | San Antonio News | San Antonio
A new study identifies two San Antonio-area utilities as operators of two of the nation’s most contaminated coal ash waste landfills.
The toxic concealment A report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice names the San Miguel Electric Cooperative plant, an hour south of the town of Alamo, as the location of the most contaminated coal ash site in the country. Meanwhile, municipal utility CPS Energy’s Calaveras power station on the south side ranked 94th on the list of watch groups.
Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity. Power plants often discharge waste into on-site retention ponds that can leach toxic chemicals into groundwater.
The EPA created the first federal rules ordering the cleanup of coal ash landfills seven years ago. However, only half of the power plants that contaminate groundwater agreed that the cleanup was necessary, according to the report’s authors. Indeed, 96% of factories do not offer any groundwater treatment, they add.
“In every state where coal is burned, power companies are violating federal health protections,” Earthjustice lead attorney Lisa Evans said in a statement. “Coal plant owners are ignoring the law and avoiding cleanup because they don’t want to pay for it. Coal ash waste causes widespread water contamination that threatens drinking water supplies and the environment.
In an emailed statement, the San Miguel Electric Cooperative said it was working with environmental regulators to be a good steward. He said the study did not take into account that the groundwater at his site was not used for drinking.
CPS Energy also provided a written statement. Utility officials said a third-party analysis of its storage units at the Calaveras plant found they complied with environmental regulations.
The two utility facilities are among 15 Lone Star State plants whose coal ash waste sites have contaminated groundwater, according to the report. Texas is tied for the third most contaminated site among all US states. The authors based their research on environmental monitoring data filed by power plants nationwide.
Groundwater at the San Miguel site has levels of a dozen toxic substances above safe limits, according to analysis by Earthjustice and EIP. The cobalt level alone exceeds the limit by 488 times.
While San Miguel has announced plans to close ponds at its power plant, the report’s authors say those efforts don’t go far enough, as the co-op does not plan to remove ash from a pond that may be located in groundwater.
In its statement, San Miguel said the report “inappropriately” infers that groundwater at the site is risky by comparing it to EPA drinking water standards.
“This appears to be an intentional omission, indicating the EIP’s clear purpose of instilling fear and suspicion, rather than presenting a balanced view of the facts,” said Mike Nasi, San Miguel environmental adviser.
The CPS Calaveras site reported amounts of nine toxic substances – including beryllium, boron, lead and lithium – that exceeded safe levels, according to the report.
In its statement, CPS said a third-party review of its facility found it posed no threat to groundwater.
Abel Russ, EIP’s lead attorney and co-author of the report, warned that groundwater contamination will get worse unless companies and regulators fix the problem.
“We have the ability to clean up these sites before they create a much bigger problem,” he said. “If the industry just followed the rules, we could make significant progress.”
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