Coal ash contains some very toxic metals, such as arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and selenium and should be considered a hazardous waste. The toxics in coal ash can cause cancer and neurological damage in humans, as well as harm to wildlife, especially water-dwelling species.
With coal ash disposal sites in nearly every state, the threat to public health affects many communities. But low-income, countryside communities are disproportionately affected due to their close proximity to the many coal ash disposal sites that are located in rural areas, where land availability and lower land prices make it cheap to purchase the multi-acre sites necessary for ash ponds and landfills.
In September 2010 GASP staff delivered comments to EPA calling on them to regulate coal ash waste as prescribed under the EPA’s subtitle C option.
“Proposal would restrict disposal of coal fly ash,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 22, 2010.
An Earthjustice report lists two sites in southwestern PA where coal ash leachate has contaminated groundwater with high levels of hexavalent chromium–the “Erin Brockovich” toxin.
“EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash,” February 2011.