Report Finds Coal Ash Contamination

A report released today by three environmental groups documents dangerous levels of toxic contaminants from coal ash, a waste product of coal-fired power plants found in most states, including Texas.

Texas, like many states, mostly does not regulate coal-ash dump sites, the report said. According to the Sierra Club, Texas produces the second-largest amount of coal ash in the country, with 26 coal-ash ponds attached to seven coal plants around the state. The report was co-authored by Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project and the Sierra Club.

Where data are available, the contaminant levels are significant. The report looked at information from groundwater samples around the Fayette power plant in central Texas, where the Lower Colorado River Authority makes power from Wyoming coal, and found high levels of selenium, arsenic and other metals and chemicals that exceed federal standards, and state standards. The power plant is located on Lake Fayette, between Austin and Houston. Two landowners near that plant have been told by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that their wells may contain an excess of molybdenum, another heavy metal, the report said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to regulate coal ash for the first time, in the wake of a 2008 environmental disaster in Tennessee, where a pond containing coal ash ruptured and covered 300 acres with sludge. A hearing will be held Sept. 8 in Dallas.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.