A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours: Trump Admin. Rolls Back More Environmental Protections
With a news cycle dominated by scandalous gossip of porn stars and in-fighting drama, it wasn’t hard to miss a much more disturbing story that largely got lost in the shuffle: President Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would be scrapping an Obama-era rule policing the disposal of coal ash.
Coal ash, as you might expect, is the byproduct of burning coal. Coal-fired power plants and utilities produce more than 100 million tons each year, making it the second-largest form of waste in the country. It’s also especially hazardous. Coal ash often includes toxic chemicals like arsenic, mercury, and lead, and has been linked to childhood learning disabilities, birth defects, and cancer.
Now, because our government is apparently run by Captain Planet villains, the EPA is looking to make it even easier for polluters to dump coal ash.
“Today’s coal ash proposal embodies EPA’s commitment to our state partners by providing them with the ability to incorporate flexibilities into their coal ash permit programs based on the needs of their states,” Pruitt said in a statement announcing the changes.
Needless to say, this has environmentalists worried that public health and safety is at risk, and their concern is definitely well-founded. Even with the existing regulations in place, major utilities are reporting evidence of groundwater contamination at coal ash dumps across the country.
“There’s no dispute that the underlying groundwater is being contaminated. We see that clearly,” said Duke University professor Avner Vengosh, who researches the effects of coal ash and has reviewed some of the new data. “The real question is whether it’s migrating toward people or wells next to (coal plants).”
Groundwater contamination has been a ticking time bomb for years, though it has gotten little attention from larger media outlets. One reason for this may be due to who it affects. In cases like the PFAS contamination in Kent County, Michigan and Blades, Delaware, small, mostly rural communities that rely on private wells rather than municipal water supplies are suffering the consequences. It can take years – or even decades in many cases – for those affected by groundwater contamination to connect the dots. This has seemingly emboldened corporations, and leaves us wondering how many more cases have yet to be uncovered.
One thing remains clear: if the EPA carries out its plan, and if history is any indicator, a rise in water contamination disasters is only a matter of time.
Wexler Wallace represents individuals who have been harmed by groundwater contamination as a result of alleged Wolverine Worldwide dumping in Kent County, Michigan. If you have been affected, contact Wexler Wallace for more information.