November 17, 2010
Moms, Families Speak Out for Toxic Coal Ash Protections
Washington, DC: As the public comment period draws to a close, concerned families gathered in Washington DC today to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt the strongest possible protections for toxic coal ash. Left over after coal is burned for energy, the ash is known to contain pollution that causes cancer and other serious illnesses.
"As the mother of two young children, I'm calling on the EPA to do the right thing and regulate coal ash as a toxic waste. Far too many children are exposed to this dangerous substance, with devastating consequences to their health, education and well-being," said Mary Kadera, chair of the Sierra Club's Mount Vernon group, who was in DC for the event.
Despite the dangers, toxic coal ash waste has been left mostly unregulated. The lack of federally enforceable safeguards tragically led to a spill of more than 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash from a pond near Knoxville, Tennessee in 2008, that destroyed 300 acres and dozens of homes, killed fish and other wildlife, and poisoned the Emory and Clinch Rivers.
"The risks are clear and very real," said Lyndsay Moseley a Tennessee native who heads up the Sierra Club's work on coal ash. "There are thousands of poorly or unregulated toxic coal ash dumps across the country. Without enforceable federal protections the families near these sites will remain in danger."
Currently the EPA is weighing two options for federal regulation of coal ash. One option the EPA proposed would create strong safeguards to protect public health from the threats of coal ash, including mandatory water quality monitoring, record keeping and protections against runoff. The other, supported by power companies and other big polluters, would retain the failed status quo and do very little to ensure protections for our drinking water and public health.
The families rallying in front of EPA headquarters today are the latest in a long line of concerned citizens who have spoken out in support of strong safeguards. To date more than 110,000 people have submitted comments on the rule through the Sierra Club website and over 6,000 have sent comment postcards to the agency. At least 2,000 people, many of whom are directly affected by coal ash, packed the eight public hearings held on the proposed protections. The time these people took off work and away from their families, often traveling long distances gives a clear indication of the scope of the coal ash threat.
"The people have spoken, and overwhelmingly they spoke out for federally enforceable protections from this toxic waste. We call on the EPA to listen," said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.