Map: U.S. Coal Fire Plants Ranked By Water Pollution

Nearly a year ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized its Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines. The new rules set the first federal limits on the amount of toxic metals — including arsenic, lead, mercury, and selenium — that can be discharged in wastewater from power plants, which are some of the biggest industrial water polluters in the country. Almost 100 public drinking water intakes and more than 1,500 public wells in the United States are located near discharges from power plants, according to the EPA. The agency says the substances covered by its guidelines can contaminate fish and drinking water supplies, in some cases leading to cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, kidney and liver damage, and reduced IQs in children. When the rules are fully implemented, between 2018 and 2023, they will cut pollution released into waterways by an estimated 635,000 metric tons (1.4 billion pounds) each year.

While the guidelines apply to all steam electric power plants, including nuclear and natural gas plants, a report released this month by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project focused on the amount of pollution currently discharged by coal-fired power plants. The report analyzed data from 216 coal plants contained in the EPA’s 2015 Toxics Release Inventory and identified those that are releasing the most arsenic, lead, and mercury into waterways. The rankings, shown in the map above, are relative to the other plants that were analyzed and do not indicate that the power stations were in violation of their environmental permits.

To read the full article, click here.

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Flint’s Water Crisis And The “Troublemaker” Scientist

Near the railroad tracks on the outskirts of Flint, Mich., there is an old pump house, the walls of which have long served as a kind of communal billboard. The Block, people call it. People paint messages there — birthday wishes, memorials for the dead. In January, after Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in response to Flint’s water crisis, a new message appeared, addressed implicitly to Snyder but also to the world: YOU WANT OUR TRUST??? WE WANT VA TECH!!! In the history of political graffiti, “We want Va. Tech” may sound like one of the least stirring demands ever spray-­painted on a wall, but in the context of Flint, it was charged with the emotion and meaning of a rallying cry.

By “Va. Tech,” the message’s author meant a Virginia Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering, Marc Edwards. Edwards has spent most of his career studying the aging waterworks of America, publishing the sort of papers that specialists admire and the rest of us ignore, on subjects like “ozone-­induced particle destabilization” or the “role of temperature and pH in Cu(OH)₂ solubility.” Explaining his research to laypeople, he sometimes describes it as “the C.S.I. of plumbing.” Edwards is a detective with a research lab and a Ph.D. In 2000, after homeowners in suburban Maryland began reporting “pinhole leaks” in their copper pipes, the water authority there brought in Edwards. In 2002, after receiving a report that water in a Maui neighborhood had mysteriously turned blue and was giving people rashes, Edwards took on the case.

Until last year, the most famous case Edwards investigated was the lead contamination of the water supply in the nation’s capital — still the worst such event in modern American history, in magnitude and duration. In Washington, lead levels shot up in 2001, and in some neighborhoods they remained dangerously elevated until 2010. Edwards maintains, and spent years working to prove, that scientific misconduct at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exacerbated the D.C. crisis. A congressional investigation culminated in a 2010 report, titled “A Public Health Tragedy: How Flawed C.D.C. Data and Faulty Assumptions Endangered Children’s Health in the Nation’s Capital.” It confirmed many of his allegations, but the experience was for Edwards a decade-­long ordeal that turned him into a reluctant activist — or as he prefers to say, “a troublemaker.”

For television appearances, Edwards will put on a suit and tie, and the tie almost always bears a picture of some endangered animal: a giant panda, for instance, or a water buffalo. But on the morning we met, in his lab at Virginia Tech, he was dressed in a black track suit and a pair of running shoes — the uniform he prefers. At 52, he has the youthful yet slightly skeletal good looks of an avid long-­distance runner, which he is. “Before Flint, I was running 50 miles a week,” he told me. “Now I’m down to 27.” Running keeps him sane, he says, or at least saner than he would be otherwise. More than once during his investigations into D.C. and Flint, he wondered if he might be losing his mind.

To read the full article, click here.

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 This Town Is Sick of Drinking Polluted Water

In Alabama’s Black Belt, a region where the vestiges of slavery still manifest in chronic poverty and crumbling infrastructure, a more recent legacy of mining and industry is haunting the land through poisoned waterways and toxic soil.

Yet the region has long been the rural core of civil-rights struggles, and along the Black Belt, local citizens are trying to revive a legacy of activism as they struggle to restore their environment.

In Uniontown—in Perry County, one of the state’s poorest—residents say they have been systematically denied the basic dignity of decent sanitation—what activists see as the residue of institutionalized racism.

With fewer than 1,800 people, 90 percent of whom are black, Uniontown is saddled with a deteriorating, mismanaged wastewater treatment system, and a government that residents say has proven indifferent to the resulting toxic threat.

Local wastewater is supposed to be treated through a method known as sprayfields, which channel effluent waste into fields to be dispersed and percolated into soil. But environmentalists complain the sprayfield system has become a toxic cesspool, and a newly constructed one has been botched.

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Colorado Air Force Base May Have Released Chemical Into Drinking Water, Military Says

Colorado health officials said it’s highly likely that trace amounts of toxic chemicals found in three drinking water systems came from firefighting foam used at a nearby Air Force base.

The state Department of Public Health and Environment said Wednesday it hasn’t ruled out additional sources, but officials believe at least some of the chemicals came from Peterson Air Force Base, where firefighters used the foam in training exercises.

The foam contained perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, which have been linked to prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, along with other illnesses.

The comments by state officials were the most definitive statement to date linking the contamination to Peterson. It came hours after the military released a report identifying six sites at the base where the foam may have escaped into the environment after firefighting drills or fire equipment tests.

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Runner’s Vision: Clean Water For Everyone

A Sunbury woman won’t be running for just fitness in October, she’ll also be running to provide clean water for communities in Africa.

Jennifer Cooper, a 36-year-old competitive runner, is a member of the World Vision Team who is participating in the Runner’s World Half Marathon in Bethlehem on Oct. 16. Every $50 donated provides clean water for one person.

“I like competing,” Cooper said. “This has been a goal of mine for quite while. When I saw they (World Vision) had a running team I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to run and to make a difference at the same time.”

Cooper heard of the World Vision Team because she sponsors Memory, a 13-year-old girl from Zambia, and Jesús, an 8-year-old boy from Bolivia, through the Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to prevent poverty and injustice.

Cooper has been running competitively for four years and has participated in more than 20 competitions, including Humdinger Trail Race and Danville Memorial T-Rail Run, both in Danville. She has many medals, including first in her age group for a Spartan Race earlier this year. Next month, she is finishing the third part of a Trifecta race in Vermont where she will run 13 miles with 30 obstacles.

To read the full article, click here.

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