Coal ash from 91 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants are contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of toxic pollutants, according to a report released Monday.
The report conducted by the Environmental Integrity Project, with assistance from Earthjustice, found that the groundwater near 242 of the 265 power plants reported unsafe levels of arsenic, lithium, chromium and other pollutants in nearby groundwater.
“This is a wake-up call for the nation. Using industry’s own data, our report proves that coal plants are poisoning groundwater nearly everywhere they operate,” Lisa Evans, senior counsel with Earthjustice, said in a statement.
According to the study, 52 percent had unsafe levels of arsenic and 62 percent had unsafe levels of lithium.
Less than 5 percent of the plants observed in the study had waterproof liners to prevent contaminants from leaking into the groundwater and 59 percent were built within five feet of the water table.
The report also listed the top 10 most contaminated sites including groundwater near plants in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland, Utah, Mississippi, Kentucky and two in Wyoming.
Monday’s report also comes after a study by the same two organizations in November, which found that 22 of the 24 dumpsites in Illinois have released toxic pollutants into the groundwater.
Power companies are not required to test private drinking water wells, so the researchers could not determine the safety of drinking water near the coal ash dumps.
The report, however, highlighted several well-documented instances of residential tap water contaminated by coal ash in Montana, Wisconsin, Maryland and two in Virginia.
Evans and Environmental Integrity Project Abel Russ, who authored the report, said Trump administration measures to loosen and eliminate regulations have contributed to the problem.
“At a time when the Trump EPA — now being run by a former coal lobbyist — is trying to roll back federal regulations on coal ash, these new data provide convincing evidence that we should be moving in the opposite direction: toward stronger protections for human health and the environment,” said Russ.