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The Environmental Protection Agency instituted a rule in 2015, which provides requirements for the safe disposal of Coal Ash. A November report from the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice shows that a majority of Missouri’s coal-fired power plants are actually causing more environmental harm.

“We looked at all the groundwater monitoring data for 292 coal plants around the country from 2015 through 2019,” explains Abel Russ, a Senior Attorney and Director of the Center for Applied Environmental Science. “We found that 265 of those coal plants were causing unsafe levels of coal ash pollutants in the groundwater at their sites. In Missouri, it’s a little different, but basically the same. We have 27 sites in Missouri with data. Of those, 22, or 81% of the sites, are contaminating groundwater. I should say, 27 disposal units, 22 of which are contaminating the groundwater. We actually have 14 power plants with data. Of those, 13 power plants are contaminating the groundwater. That’s 93%. It’s similar to what we see at the national level. 93% of power plants are contaminating the groundwater. 81% of individual disposal units at those power plants are contaminating the groundwater.”

The report states that only 4% of those plants have selected a cleanup remedy and plan to treat the contaminated groundwater, alleging that power companies are ‘flouting’ the Coal Ash Rule. The report details how power companies are leaving coal ash in groundwater after closure as well as failing to clean up the groundwater contaminated with coal ash.

“It is really a question of prevention at this point,” adds Russ. “We have a lot of information about contamination. Some of this stuff has gotten out into the environment. A lot of it is still sitting right where they put it. It’s in the ash ponds. It’s in the landfills. The policy goal as I see it is to try to prevent most of that contamination from getting out. To do that, you have to keep the ash dry. You have to keep it secure so it’s not going to erode. You have to monitor the groundwater to make sure it’s not getting worse or you actually want to make sure that it’s getting better. All of those things are steps that the power company should be taking, and I think the public’s role is to ensure that they’re doing it.”

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